The use of glass is increasing around the world and scientists are trying to find new ways to enhance its properties.


Recently we saw new research that lets windows turn into mirrors at the flick of a switch, and now researchers from the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics at the University of Maryland have designed smart windows that can generate solar energy as well as adjust their opacity to either allow or block light at the flick of a  switch. But the solar smart window not only uses the solar power to power itself up but can also store energy for powering other devices – a trick that might not be lost on Lamborghini who recently announced they’re looking for materials that can help them make a battery-less hypercar in 2030.


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The teams new technology uses a polymer matrix imbued with microdroplets of liquid crystals and an amorphous silicon layer like those in solar cells. These are then sandwiched in between glass panes.


See how it works

When turned off, the liquid crystals disperse light, making the window opaque as the silicon absorbs solar energy, which it will later use for powering itself up, or charging other devices connected to it. These liquid crystals adjust when turned on, allowing light to pass through.

The ingenious thing is that even when turned on, the window remains opaque when viewed from certain angles. This means that some light is still absorbed and the window is partially charging while simultaneously allowing light in, maximizing the window’s energy absorption and efficiency.


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The ability to switch the windows on and off ensures that users maintain control over the windows not just for temperature management but also for privacy purposes, as opposed to existing solar-powered smart windows which automatically decide when to block out light, and when to allow visibility. This eliminates the need to employ the use of curtains or blinds.

Apart from this, adaptation of its energy efficiency mechanism could revolutionize many optoelectronic devices.

“The ability to electrically control transparency and scattering of light is important for many optoelectronic devices; however, such versatility usually comes with additional unwanted optical absorption and power loss,” said the researchers.

The new solar smart windows also require very little energy for self-powering, as little as 13 nanometers of amorphous silicon. The NASA funded study has been published in ACS Photonics.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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