Tag Archives: smart glass

Spray-on coatings for cheaper smart windows

An August 6, 2020 RMIT University (Australia) press release (also on EurekAlert but published August 5, 2020) by Gosia Kaszubska announces a coating that makes windows ‘smart’,

A simple method for making clear coatings that can block heat and conduct electricity could radically cut the cost of energy-saving smart windows and heat-repelling glass [electrochromic windows?].

The spray-on coatings developed by researchers at RMIT are ultra-thin, cost-effective and rival the performance of current industry standards for transparent electrodes.

Combining the best properties of glass and metals in a single component, a transparent electrode is a highly conductive clear coating that allows visible light through.

The coatings – key components of technologies including smart windows, touchscreen displays, LED lighting and solar panels – are currently made through time-consuming processes that rely on expensive raw materials.

The new spray-on method is fast, scalable and based on cheaper materials that are readily available.

The method could simplify the fabrication of smart windows, which can be both energy-saving and dimmable, as well as low-emissivity glass, where a conventional glass panel is coated with a special layer to minimise ultraviolet and infrared light.

Lead investigator Dr Enrico Della Gaspera said the pioneering approach could be used to substantially bring down the cost of energy-saving windows and potentially make them a standard part of new builds and retrofits.

“Smart windows and low-E glass can help regulate temperatures inside a building, delivering major environmental benefits and financial savings, but they remain expensive and challenging to manufacture,” said Della Gaspera, a senior lecturer and Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at RMIT.

“We’re keen to collaborate with industry to further develop this innovative type of coating.

“The ultimate aim is to make smart windows much more widely accessible, cutting energy costs and reducing the carbon footprint of new and retrofitted buildings.”

The new method can also be precisely optimised to produce coatings tailored to the transparency and conductivity requirements of the many different applications of transparent electrodes.

Global demand for smart glazing

The global market size for smart glass and smart windows is expected to reach $6.9 billion by 2022, while the global low-E glass market is set to reach an estimated $39.4 billion by 2024.

New York’s Empire State Building reported energy savings of $US2.4 million and cut carbon emissions by 4,000 metric tonnes after installing smart glass windows.

Eureka Tower in Melbourne features a dramatic use of smart glass in its “Edge” tourist attraction, a glass cube that projects 3m out of the building and suspends visitors 300m over the city. The glass is opaque as the cube moves out over the edge of the building and becomes clear once fully extended.

First author Jaewon Kim, a PhD researcher in Applied Chemistry at RMIT,  said the next steps in the research were developing precursors that will decompose at lower temperatures, allowing the coatings to be deposited on plastics and used in flexible electronics, as well as producing larger prototypes by scaling up the deposition.

“The spray coater we use can be automatically controlled and programmed, so fabricating bigger proof-of-concept panels will be relatively simple,” he said.

Caption: The ultra-thin clear coatings are made with a new spray-on method that is fast, cost-effective and scalable. Credit: RMIT University

That is an impressive level of transparency. As per usual, here’s a link to and a citation for the paper (should you wish to explore further),

Ultrasonic Spray Pyrolysis of Antimony‐Doped Tin Oxide Transparent Conductive Coatings by Jaewon Kim, Billy J. Murdoch, James G. Partridge, Kaijian Xing, Dong‐Chen Qi, Josh Lipton‐Duffin, Christopher F. McConville, Joel van Embden, Enrico Della Gaspera. Advanced Materials Interfaces DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/admi.202000655 First published: 05 August 2020

This paper is behind a paywall.

*University of Waterloo (Canada) and three of its nano startup companies

All three of these University of Waterloo (UW) startups could be said to feature windows in one fashion or another but it is a bit of a stretch to describe their products as ‘window-oriented’ since these entrepreneurs have big plans.

The first company I’m mentioning is Lumotune, a company whose homepage features NanoShutters and this tagline, “Smarter Glass for a Smarter World”. A Dec. 10, 2013 article by Terry Pender for GuelphMercury.com provides a description of this product which is controlled by a smartphone application,

The product is made of two thin sheets of clear plastic. In between the sheets is the nanotechnology the trio started developing as a school project. The optics of the glass can easily be changed from clear to opaque using a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

The NanoShutters adhere to a window and are connected to a control box with tiny wires. The control box can be plugged into a laptop or controlled wirelessly with tablets and smartphones.

The control box is the most important part of the NanoShutters; the founders have applied for a patent to protect their ownership of it.

“That is basically the core technology,” Esfahani said. “It is futuristic to be able to control what passes through your window with your phone.”

Esfahani, Safaee and Siddiqi [Lumotune founders: Matin Esfahani, Hooman Safaee and Shafi Siddiqi] started all this as a project for their undergrad studies in 2011. They developed the technology, showcased it in March, won a lot of awards, incorporated Lumotune in April, and then collected their degrees from UW.

NanoShutters, the first commercial product to come out of Lumotune, is now in testing with a group of residential, commercial and institutional customers. The founders are using the testing to smooth out kinks and challenges in the technology and develop relationships with customers.

Safaee estimates the market for NanoShutters will be worth about $4 billion a year by 2016.

But the company was founded with much bigger ideas in mind. Instead of using their invention to make windows more or less transparent, they want the product to be used for digital displays that can be put on any surface with no visible technology.

I was not able to find any more details about how nanotechnology enables this window or, more accurately, glass ‘frosting’ experience (perhaps there’s some information in the installation guide mentioned later in this post) but the inventors do offer this video demonstrating their product,

Here’s more from the company’s homepage,

Windows drain energy and reduce privacy. NanoShutters can be fully automated to turn your window opaque or transparent according to the weather and your schedule. They can help lower heating and cooling costs by up to 20%, while always enabling privacy when you need it.

If you’re comfortable putting up a poster and setting up a toaster, you can install NanoShutters yourself. It takes less than 30 minutes. See how easy it is.

You can also get installation from a local NanoShutters Certified Professional.

I did click to find out if there’s a NanoShutter professional nearby but it appears there aren’t any entries yet so this may be an opportunity for entrepreneurial types.

The next two University of Waterloo startups are here courtesy of a Dec. 10, 2013 news item on DigitalJournal.com,

Harsh winter conditions may be easier for Canadians to manage with new products invented by two University of Waterloo graduates.

“Frost is a major problem for individuals and businesses daily. Not only is it inconvenient but it has an impact on safety and can even hinder economic activity,” said Abhinay Kondamreddy, a nanotechnology engineering graduate who developed Neverfrost along with three classmates.

For contractors who drop salt on parking lots and sidewalks, as well as the municipalities or owners who pay for it, there’s never been a way to measure how much salt is actually dispensed. Smart Scale, an automated salt logging and tracking system designed specifically for the winter maintenance industry is changing that.

The Dec. 10, 2013 University of Waterloo news release, which originated the news item, provides more detail about both Neverfrost and Smart Scale (Note: Links have been removed),

Neverfrost is an environmentally-friendly technology that prevents frost, fog, and ice formation. The innovation is the foundation for a new startup, also called Neverfrost.

By spraying Neverfrost on a windshield at night, drivers can avoid scraping and defrosting it on cold winter mornings, and clear the windshield simply by running the wipers. The Neverfrost technology prevents snow from freezing to the glass as well as fog and frost. Neverfrost expects to begin taking pre-orders for the spray with a Kickstarter campaign in March.Future plans for Neverfrost include incorporating it directly into washer fluids.

Frost and ice create challenges for aircrafts, air conditioning, commercial refrigerators, power lines, and agriculture – creating future opportunities for the Neverfrost technology.

Kondamreddy is one of two entrepreneurs who continue to further their technologies and startups thanks to a $60,000 Scientists and Engineers in Business fellowship. The fellowship is a University of Waterloo program supported by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario for promising entrepreneurs who want to commercialize their innovations and start high-tech businesses.

Developed by Raqib Omer, a Waterloo Engineering graduate, Smart Scale uses exclusive hardware wirelessly paired with GPS-enabled smart phones to track the location of a maintenance vehicle and amount of salt dispensed, and logs the information on a cloud-based system in real time. Since the cost of salt is based on size of load, property owners can be assured they’re getting what they paid for, as well as reducing risks that exist in the industry.

“With growing public concern on the environmental effects of salt, rising salt prices, and increasing fear of litigation due to slips and falls, as well as driving conditions, reliable and accurate information on salt application is becoming a necessity for maintenance contractors,” said Omer.

More than 20 winter maintenance contractors in Canada and the U.S., including Urban Meadows Property Maintenance Group in Ayr, Ontario, currently use Smart Scale.

Urban Meadows owner, William Jordan, met Omer in the early testing phase of Smart Scale and the startup phase of Omer’s company, Viaesys. As the first contractor to test Smart Scale, he quickly learned there were times his company was using too much salt.

“The accuracy rate wasn’t there at all,” said Jordan. “We’re now able to accurately monitor salt usage, prevent excessive material use, keep bullet-proof records of our work and job-cost a lot better. The real time tracking of salt has helped us use up to 30 per cent less salt.”

Smart Scale is now installed on all four of his company’s trucks which service 75 properties in Cambridge and Ayr, including parking lots for grocery stores and post offices.

Jordan, who is also chair of the snow and ice committee management sector for the horticultural trade association, Landscape Ontario, says he quickly jumped on board with Omer’s research and would like to see Smart Scale change the way salt is applied across Ontario. With no industry standards for salt application currently in place, Smart Scale could make this possible.

You can find Neverfrost and an opportunity to beta test the product here. I’ve not been able to find a website featuring Smart Scale but here’s Viaesys, a company founded by Raqib Omer, the person who developed the product. I was not able to find additional technical details for either Neverfrost or Smart Scale on either of the company websites.

* ‘Unviersity’ corrected to ‘University’  in posting header on Dec. 13, 2013. I uttered a very loud Drat! when I saw it.