How Does Smart Glass Windows Work?
Glass is one of the essential materials that have become a necessary part of every residential and commercial building. Without it, our building will be damp, dingy, cold, and dark. Glass is everywhere, from windows to doors and shower enclosures to internal partitions. If you are planning to renovate or remodel your building, then this is the material that can enhance the overall appearance and functionality. The beginning of the 20th century brought the idea of automation. We saw electric dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and many such appliances. The latest invention in this regard is a smart glass window. Today, we will help you understand how does smart glass windows work along with some interesting facts.
Working of Smart Glass Window
A smart glass window is an electric glass window that changes its color automatically. When you power on a smart window, it changes its color from transparent to dark, offering full privacy. The other terms used for a smart glass window are dynamic windows and switchable windows. Now, let’s see how smart glass windows work.
There are different types of smart glass available. Some darken merely, some become translucent, while many become opaque. All glass types run on different technologies. The most commonly used smart glass windows run on lithium ions movement. An ordinary window is made of one vertical glass pane. A double-glazed window consists of two panes. The glass panes of double-glazed windows have an air gap between them for improved soundproofing and heat insulation.
A more sophisticated glass window has a coating of various metallic chemicals. This coating helps you keep your indoor temperature comfortable during summers and winters. The working of a smart window is very similar to this. The metal-oxide layer a smart glass window uses is more sophisticated. While we discuss how does smart glass windows work, we should also know that these windows can also be made of plastic. A plastic or glass is a base material coated with different thin layers by sputtering.
The inside surface of the window glass (facing into the home) has five extremely thin layers. The mid-part has a separator and the separator has two electrodes on both sides. Two electrical contact coatings are transparent on electrodes’ both sides.
The primary working source comprises lithium ions that drift forth and back between the electrodes via a separator. When the lithium ions are on the inner electrode, the glass window will be clear. When the electrodes get a little voltage, the ions on the separator move to the other electrode. The ions then reflect light which ultimately turns it opaque. The glass will remain transparent until you reverse the voltage. There is no power required for maintaining smart glass in its dark or clear state.
Apart from lithium-ion, many other technologies are behind how does smart glass windows work. Here are some of the most commonly used technologies:
- The separator between electrode layers can be replaced with a dye (electrochromic material). It will change the glass color when the current goes through it. This is identical to the process of photochromic sunglasses, though under a defined electrical control. Viologens and similar chemical dyes change color reversible between blue and clear.
- Nano-crystals are also used in an extensively analogous way for letting less or more light go through the switchable window.
Therefore, how does smart glass windows work also depends on the technology being used. Now, let’s take a look at the configurations.
Various smart glass windows come with different configurations. But, most comes with many different layers. One popular Halio brand design has six different surfaces. An electrochromic layer is present between the two polyvinyl butyral polymer (PVB) layers and has heat-toughened glass covering both sides.
Then, there is a layer of argon insulation and a low-e coating. Finally, there’s an interior glass layer. You can customize smart glass units in several ways. For waterproofing or security, other layers should be thicker. In the same way, you can achieve other objectives, like less or more insulation and various Low-E coatings. Some smart glass windows have automatic controls via smartphone apps and some work through sun sensors.
Different Uses of Smart Glass
Apart from its use in windows, you will see the use of smart glass in many other applications. They are used in residential, commercial, healthcare, retail, and other facilities. Here are different uses of smart glass:
- Residential: shower/bathroom enclosures, partitions
- Commercial: office partitions/doors, reception, conference rooms
- Healthcare: clinic partitions, ORs, Nurseries, ICU Doors, ERs
- Banking: safe deposit cabins, transaction windows, teller lines
- Hospitality: partitions, shower/bathroom enclosures
- Retail: projection displays, changing rooms
There are many other areas where smart glass technology is used. It offers privacy in a technologically-advanced manner.
Is There a Cost-Effective Alternative to Smart Glass?
Sometimes, the budget of a person is so tight so he wants a budget alternative to the smart glass. Fitting an entire window is a costly project. Apart from the unit price, you will also have to pay for professional installation. So, what is an affordable alternative in that case?
The smart tint glass is a perfect replacement for the smart glass. Smart tint glass or stick-on smart glass films are cheaper. They are available in two types, such as stick-on switchable film and self-adhesive film. All you need is to simply apply it to the glass of existing windows. You can operate these films through a smartphone app.
These films run on the same technology that LCDs use. They utilize liquid crystals with defined electronic control for changing the amount of light getting through the windows. When you switch it on, the crystals get ready and allow light to pass through.
When you turn it off, the crystals adjust themselves and scatter light that turns the window opaque. The performance of these films is quite impressive. Therefore, if you don’t have enough money to buy smart glass, then you can buy affordable smart tint glass films.
Advantages of Smart Glass Windows
Now that you understand how does smart glass windows work and where they are used, you should also know their benefits. Smart windows may sound like a gimmick, though they offer a great environmental benefit. The smart glass reflects almost all the light hitting on it in its darkened state. Therefore, a smart glass window can significantly minimize the air-conditioning need. Due to this, you will save a lot of money that you have to spend on air-conditioner installation and its energy cost.
Smart glass windows are electrically operated, so you can easily control them through your smartphone app or sunlight sensor. It means whether you are at your home or outside, you can conveniently operate your windows. These windows can save you approximately 8% of your building’s monthly energy consumption. They require a little amount of electricity.
Another great benefit of a smart window’s glass is the privacy that it offers at a single switch push. This is a convenience that everybody likes in today’s busy world. Smart glass windows are also great in terms of security as the curtains are typically unreliable. In short, smart glass windows are the most convenient, secure, and fashionable privacy solution in this modern era.
The future of Smart Windows
Smart glass windows have already become a supreme choice for residential and commercial facilities. These windows already have many advanced features, but there are many possibilities that we might get benefit from soon. One example is combining solar cells with switchable windows.
It will make sure that the window doesn’t reflect away the sunlight in a useless way. A darkened window soaks up the energy and then stores it to utilize later. Apart from that, we can expect many such possibilities to turn to reality in the future.
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