You may soon save on cooling and heating bills for homes thanks to the invention of a new flexible smart material that, when incorporated into windows, sunroofs, or even curved glass surfaces, will have the ability to control both heat and light from the sun.
Researchers reported a new low-temperature process for coating the smart material on plastic, which makes it easier and cheaper to apply than conventional coatings made directly on the glass itself. The low-temperature process developed at The University of Texas at Austin generates a material with a unique nanostructure, which doubles the efficiency of the coloration process compared with a coating produced by a conventional high-temperature process. It can switch between clear and tinted more quickly, using less power, researchers reported in a study published online in the journal Nature Materials. The team demonstrated a flexible electrochromic device, which means a small electric charge (about four volts) can lighten or darken the material and control the transmission of heat-producing, near-infrared radiation. Such smart windows are aimed at saving on cooling and heating bills for homes and businesses.
The new electrochromic material, has an amorphous structure, meaning the atoms lack any long-range organisation as would be found in a crystal. However, the new process yields a unique local arrangement of the atoms in a linear, chain-like structure. As a result, it is twice as energy efficient as the conventionally processed smart window material, the study said.