Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have designed a breakthrough new material that could lead to smart windows where people could control the amount of light and heat (both together or separately) that gets through. This new technology could make homes and businesses much more energy efficient.
Berkeley Lab reports, "The material is a thin coating of nanocrystals embedded in glass that can dynamically modify sunlight as it passes through a window. Unlike existing technologies, the coating provides selective control over visible light and heat-producing near-infrared (NIR) light, so windows can maximize both energy savings and occupant comfort in a wide range of climates."
“In the US, we spend about a quarter of our total energy on lighting, heating and cooling our buildings,” says Delia Milliron, a chemist at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry who led this research. “When used as a window coating, our new material can have a major impact on building energy efficiency.”
Because this new technology can block both NIR light and visible light, occupants would have the ability to customize their climate depending on whether they wanted more or less visible light and more or less heat. People could customize the window settings depending on climate, time of year or even time of day to maximize energy efficiency.
The technology is made of an electrochromic material composed of nanocrystals of indium tin oxide embedded in a glassy matrix of niobium oxide. The researchers found that the composite material not only could control both NIR light and visible light, but that there was "a synergistic interaction in the tiny region where glassy matrix meets nanocrystal that increases the potency of the electrochromic effect," which means that thinner coatings of the material could pack just as much punch.
Check out the video below to hear more about this great breakthrough.