A lot of buildings of today use a lot of glass. Glass is actually not a bad material – it is not structural, but it looks good and allows natural light to flood the interior. However, skyscrapers lose a lot of energy just because of their large windows, which can be mitigated using tinted glass, blinds or other means. Now scientists from The University of British Columbia have invented new method to create self-tinting windows.
Natural light is great. However, if the interior of the glass building becomes too hot, people have to turn to air conditioning. It is just a waste of energy. When conditions outside are changing, dynamic solutions are preferred as they allow adapting the lighting and temperature inside according to the needs of the office workers. However, self-tinting windows are very expensive to make and do not always deliver what’s promised. Now scientists created a novel cheaper way of making glass that changes its colour in response to electricity.
UBC chemistry researchers found a new way to effectively coat glass with a liquid solution containing a metal ion. The liquid is presented onto a glass and ultraviolet light transforms it into a film that coats the glass. Sounds pretty simple, but that is essential components of smart windows. Scientists do not speculate, how much the new glass would cost, but it would certainly be cheaper than $500 to $1,000-per-square-metre that smart glass costs to make today. Such high price is caused by a specialized equipment (heat treatment and vacuum) and intensive labour, required in the manufacturing process.
The new method results in a layer of a special coating that turns blue when electricity is applied. And so, the temperature inside these skyscrapers can be controlled precisely. For example, when the sky is clear and it is getting too warm inside, people can tint the windows (or they can tint themselves), preventing a large portion of the sunlight from heating up the place. In this way the company is saving money that it would otherwise waste on air conditioning. Wei Cheng, leader of the project, said: “Another advantage of our method is that it is compatible with many different metals and it is scalable. We are excited to potentially fine-tune the dynamic properties of the materials to improve performance even further and make large windows for commercial use”.
Glass architecture is here to stay. Who can tell, when if ever it will go out of fashion? But as urbanization is taking place scientists will be required to come up with solutions to ensure energy efficiency in these large glass buildings.