Electricity-Generating Windows at the Flip of a Switch

Suffer from a cold home? You can now crank up the heat with the flip of a switch (and watch a movie, too!) using a smart solar window.

 

Doesn't it seem like everything in the the house is getting "smart" these days? Amidst all the talk of smart thermostats, smart door bells and smart fridges, I recently came across a development in solar windows that not only promises to reduce a home’s carbon footprint by regulating heat at the flip of a switch but also adjusts to store electricity to power other devices.

The Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics at the University of Maryland has come up with this new approach for smart windows. With their innovation, the smart window turns opaque on demand, allowing consumers to flip a switch to control the process or to tint the windows for privacy. Typically, most solar-powered smart windows respond automatically to changing conditions, such as light or heat, and don't provide much flexibility to the home owner.

The researchers created their smart window design by sandwiching a polymer matrix containing microdroplets of liquid crystal materials along with an amorphous silicon layer between two glass panes. When turned off, the liquid crystals disperse light and make the window opaque so the silicon can absorb the solar energy; when turned on, the liquid crystals adjust and allow the light to pass through, as explained in an article on Futurism.com.

According to the article, the really interesting part of the technology is that the windows remain opaque in certain angles even when turned on, which allows light to still come in––thus maximizing energy efficiency. As a result, the researchers have achieved a customizable window design that can be easily adjusted for light, heat and energy storage based on what the user wants or needs at the time.

 

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