Welcome to the Glass Age: New Smart Window Powers Itself

My following article below was originally published by SERIOUS WONDER:

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During a time when being environmentally friendly is most critical, it isn’t a surprise to see the global community leaning closer towards eco-friendly architecture. The only problem with modern eco-friendly homes is the fact that they take a lot of energy to maintain a living space on par with that of regular homes, resulting in mass energy consumption. In other words, they’re eco-friendly only in name and intent.

Thanks to a team of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists, however, they’ve developed a new glass system that’ll create windows that not only tint themselves without using an external power source, but also acts as a rechargeable battery, i.e. an eco-friendly smart window!

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“Our new smart electrochromic window is bi-functional; it is also a transparent battery. It charges up and turns blue when there is oxygen present in the electrolyte – in other words, it breathes.” – Prof. Sun Xiaowei

Led by Professor Sun Xiaowei, the NTU researchers developed a new technology that integrates two sheets of glass with liquid electrolyte stored in between. The first sheet of glass contains what is called Prussian Blue, which provides the blue tint when fully charged. Whereas the second sheet of glass connected to aluminum foil, with an electrical cable connecting both sheets.

To achieve the blue tint, a chemical reaction occurs whenever the electrical circuit is broken, between the Prussian Blue sheet and dissolved oxygen from the electrolyte. This, in itself, acts as a self-sufficient battery to maintain the blue tint when ultraviolet rays pierce the window. Once the circuit closes, discharging the battery as a result, the blue tint fades away and turns into a transparent Prussian White.

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The innovative ideas that could come as a result of this new technology, developed by NTU scientists, are practically endless. As Prof. Sun noted, “Buildings owners and even common households can reap energy savings right from the outset and over the long term.” If you wish to read their study, “A bi-functional device for self-powered electrochromic window and self-rechargeable transparent battery applications,” it’s been published by open-access journal Nature Communications.

FUTURE IMPLICATIONS

As noted, the implications to this new kind of smart window are practically endless. What the NTU scientists have achieved is a new means of smart glassware architecture to produce a color via an electric circuit without the use of an external source. Not only will this cut down in energy consumption prices, but the innovations that will arise from this are now possible.

With the right setup, your future smart window could do much more than give a bluish tint, but could provide any other number of colors to your choosing. Advertisers in the future will use this technology to create eco-friendly ads on buildings, or even perhaps in the windows of cars. Future home owners will integrate their entertainment systems within the fabric of this new smart window. Just as Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman argued quite intuitively, we truly are living in what can only be perceived as the Glass Age!

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