A breakthrough research of self-powered ‘Smart Window’

This breakthrough research led by NTU Professor
Sun Xiaowei was published recently in Nature Communications.
Researchers have created a window
that can darken and lighten itself without power and even work as a low-voltage
rechargeable battery capable of powering LED lights. Nanyang Technological
University (NTU) scientists have developed a smart window which can darken or
brighten without the need for an external power source. This unique self-tinting
window requires zero electricity to operate and is also a rechargeable battery.
The window’s stored energy can be used for other purposes, such as to light up
low-powered electronics like a light emitting diode (LED).

Image
credit: Nanyang Technological University

Currently,
the window solutions in the market are either using permanent tinting which
cannot brighten at night or are windows that can change its light transmission
properties only with an external power source. The NTU smart window however can
be turned into a cool blue tint in bright daylight, cutting light penetration
by about half, and then reverts back to clear glass at night or as required.
The trick to making the self-powered smart window is a new technology developed
by Prof Sun’s team from NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. “Our
new smart electrochromic window is bi-functional; it is also a transparent
battery,“ Sun explained. “It charges up and turns blue when there is oxygen
present in the electrolyte ­ in other words, it breathes.”

The
NTU smart window contains liquid electrolyte placed in between two glass sheets
coated with indium tin oxide (ITO), commonly used as transparent conductive
coatings for television displays. One sheet is coated with an additional layer
of a pigment known as Prussian Blue and the other one is attached to a thin
strip of aluminum foil. The Prussian Blue gives the glass a blue tint when it
is fully charged. The two glass sheets are connected by typical electrical
cables. When the electrical circuit between them is broken, a chemical reaction
starts between Prussian Blue and the dissolved oxygen in the electrolyte,
turning the glass blue. To turn off the blue tint, the electrical circuit is
closed to discharge the battery, turning the Prussian Blue into a colorless
Prussian White.

Such
an innovative technology can adjust the amount of sunlight coming into
buildings in the day, which promises significant savings on cooling and
lighting costs. “Our technology is very attractive as a zerosum consumption
smart window. Buildings owners and even common households can reap energy
savings right from the outset and over the long term. Developers who are
looking at constructing environmentally-friendly green buildings will find our
technology attractive for their building plans,” said Sun. Prof Sun is an
electrical engineering expert whose other innovations include various solar
technologies, glass-free 3D technologies, next-generation lightings and
displays. The NTU team is now enhancing their invention and is looking forward
to collaborating with industry partners to commercialize their technology.

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