Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



The Smart Money Is Betting On Smart Windows

Okay, so maybe Damon Runyon was not thinking about a government-supported energy efficiency research project when he wrote, “the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how the smart money bets.” But if he was alive today, he might have been thinking of the Department of Energy’s Universal Smart Window project. DOE has just bet a cool $3 million that the project will deliver a low-cost, high-tech window coating that will dramatically cut the energy used in buildings.

energy efficient smart windows

A $3 Million Bet on Energy Efficient Smart Windows

Windows are a massive Achilles’s heel for buildings in terms of energy efficiency, despite some improvements over the years. That puts windows front and center in President Obama’s Better Buildings national energy efficiency initiative, in case you were wondering why the Department of Energy is so interested in windows all of a sudden.

So, here’s the deal. The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a grant of $3 million to researcher Delia Milliron, Deputy Director of the Molecular Foundry, to develop a new electrochromic window coating that adjusts to changes in weather and light conditions (the Molecular Foundry is a project under the auspices of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory that promotes nanoscale research).

The coating serves as a self-regulating interface that prevents too much light and heat from getting into a building. Conversely, the coating admits more light and heat whenever that would enable the building to save energy.

We Built This!

Milliron’s project is a collaboration between the Berkeley lab and a startup called Heliotrope Technologies, which was spun off from the Molecular Foundry into the private sector.

Heliotrope was recently declared the winner of the 2012 NOVA Innovation competition for its work with self-regulating window coatings.

The new coating uses a small jolt of electricity to create variations in the degree a window will transmit visible light and near-infrared radiation, which produces heat. According to Berkeley Lab:

“In this way, the sun’s power can be harnessed to permit maximal light and heat to enter in cold weather, while preventing unwanted heating and glare on hot, sunny days. Ultimately, such dynamic windows would be integrated with an intelligent control system to maximize energy savings and make buildings more comfortable.”

The Berkeley team will work with Heliotrope and other researchers to refine the Universal Smart Window coating, which is actually a thin film of transparent nanocrystals embedded in a matrix.

So far, the team has used tin-doped indium oxide and aluminum-doped zinc oxide nanocrystals. The matrix could be a metal oxide that reacts to an electrical current, or it could be a passive electrolyte.

Smart Windows for Everybody

Electrochromic window coatings are not particularly new, but the ones in existence today are expensive and unable to respond to seasonal changes.

Those factors have limited their use. The Universal Smart Window project, in accordance with its name, is aimed at producing a low-cost coating that could be applied to just about any window, anywhere.

The folks at Berkeley and Heliotrope better work fast, though, if they want bragging rights to the first switchable window coating on the market. Dow Corning, for one, is hard at work on a similar coating based on liquid silicon crystals.

Meanwhile, this could all be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of squeezing extra juice out of windows. A company called New Energy Technologies has been working under a federal grant to develop a transparent coating that turns windows into solar power generators, and UCLA is working on a transparent solar cell that could be used in place of conventional windows.

Image (cropped): Windows by uitdragerij

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

The massive new SunZia wind energy transmission line is closing in on the finish line, ESG or not.

Clean Power

Many people want to build new transmission lines for renewable energy like solar and wind. We dive into the issues, pro and con, on...


A primer on public loan guarantees, grants, and tax credits for US clean industrial projects.

Clean Transport

An ABB E-mobility press release passed my desk recently, and it caught my eye because I was a bit thrown off by the news....

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.