VIDEO: UBC researchers create new method for self-tinting windows

Smart windows conserve building energy by switching from clear to tinted, controlling heat and light

UBC chemistry researchers have developed an energy-saving and cost-effective technique for making smart windows.

Smart windows conserve building energy by switching from clear to tinted, dynamically controlling heat and light from the sun, as stated in a UBC media release.

“Conventional windows waste a third of all energy used to heat, ventilate and air condition buildings,” said Curtis Berlinguette, a professor of chemistry, chemical & biological engineering and the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute at UBC. “Smart window technologies offer the opportunity to reduce these energy losses but the main challenge is finding ways to make these windows less expensive.”

Wei Cheng led this project which was part of his postdoctorate at UBC. According to the UBC media release, Cheng found an alternative way to make glass materials that change colour in response to electricity, a technique that was co-developed in Berlinguette’s lab.

The film is transparent, but becomes blue when electric current flows through the film, hence creating the active component of a smart window.

This new method means that windows can be manufactured without high temperatures or the sophisticated vacuum equipment that are currently used to make such devices, reducing the cost, as stated in a UBC media release.

“Our technique creates a uniform dynamic coating without the need for special instrumentation,” said Cheng. “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.”

Berlinguette and Cheng are committed to prove this method by making larger windows that can withstand extended periods of time.

“A commercial window needs to last many years, and we need to prove our windows can do the same,” said Cheng.

Cheng also noted that they were testing with neutral tints, such as grey instead of blue.

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