Have Your Heard of Smart Glass?
Have Your Heard of Smart Glass?
Also known as magic, or switchable glass, smart glass is becoming a popular choice for architectural glazing projects.
The material can change its properties when heat, light, or electricity are applied to it. It’s currently being used in windows, skylights, doors, and architectural glazing in both residential and commercial buildings to help cut heating, lighting, and air conditioning costs. It’s certainly a miracle material for energy efficiency.
Smart glass is designed to transform light and adjust heat ingress based on external environmental conditions. As it gets darker out, the glass becomes more and more transparent to let as much natural light in as possible. In full daylight, the glass blocks most of the sun’s rays from entering the building, thereby reducing A/C requirements. Buildings with smart glass have less need for motorized light screens or curtains.
It’s no wonder then that the market for smart glass is big ($2.81 billion in 2016) and getting bigger fast.
The biggest driver of smart glass adoption is energy efficiency, both due to the impressive cost savings and new environmental regulations put in place across the United States. Some states are even offering incentives to integrate smart glass into building designs as part of broader energy conservation efforts.
Here’s How Smart Glass Works:
The most common type of smart glass is Suspended Particle Devices (SPD) Electrochromic. This material can be tuned manually or automatically to control the light and heat entering a building. Using this kind of smart glass can result in big savings on electricity bills. It can also help reduce glare for building occupants looking outside, which is why this material is also often used in windshields.
Electrochromic glass works via the electrochromism principle, whereby materials change color or opacity when an electric charge is applied. SPDs are composed of a thin film of nano-scale particles suspended in a liquid placed between two pieces of glass. When no voltage is applied to the material, the particles remain randomly organized, blocking and absorbing light. But when a voltage is applied, the particles align and let light pass through. The orientation of the particles, and therefore the opacity of the glazing, can be adjusted by varying the voltage.
Adoption of this material has been particularly high for tall buildings in high-temperature areas, such as Middle East. But North America had a 35% market share in 2016.
Interestingly, you might also start to see this same material in consumer electronics like smartphones. But smart glass is already making big waves in the architectural glazing industry.
So when you’re choosing the right glass material for your next glazing project, don’t forget to check out smart glass.
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If you want to learn a bit more about the basics of Smart Glass keep reading.
Glass is a ubiquitous material in modern architecture, used for everything from windows to walls. For many years, glass has remained a static and passive building material that only allowed for a limited amount of control over heat, light, and privacy. However, with the emergence of smart glass technology, the glass has evolved from a static element to a dynamic one, capable of adapting to the changing environment and the needs of its users. Smart glass technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with the built environment, making buildings more energy-efficient, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing. In this article, we will explore what smart glass is, how it works, and its applications in the modern world.
What is smart glass?
Smart glass, also known as switchable glass or electrochromic glass, is a type of glass that can change its optical properties, such as transparency, opacity, and color, in response to an external stimulus. This external stimulus can be an electrical current, light, or heat, depending on the type of smart glass technology used.
There are several types of smart glass technologies available, including electrochromic, photochromic, thermochromic, and suspended particle device (SPD) glass. Electrochromic glass is currently the most commonly used type of smart glass technology, and it uses an electric current to change the opacity of the glass. Photochromic glass changes its tint in response to light, while thermochromic glass changes its tint in response to temperature. SPD glass uses microscopically sized particles suspended in a liquid or gas to control the amount of light passing through the glass.
How does smart glass work?
Smart glass technology is based on the principle of controlling the amount of light that passes through the glass. The amount of light that passes through the glass depends on the transparency of the glass, which can be controlled by changing the alignment of the molecules within the glass. When an external stimulus, such as an electrical current, light, or heat, is applied to the glass, the alignment of the molecules within the glass changes, causing a change in the transparency of the glass.
In electrochromic glass, for example, the glass is coated with a thin layer of metal oxide, which is sandwiched between two layers of transparent conductive coatings. When an electrical current is applied to the glass, the metal oxide layer changes its opacity, making the glass either more or less transparent. The electrical current is controlled by a switch, allowing the user to adjust the opacity of the glass as needed.
In photochromic glass, the glass is coated with a layer of photochromic material, which darkens when exposed to sunlight. When the sunlight is blocked, the glass returns to its original, clear state. In thermochromic glass, the glass contains a material that changes its color in response to temperature changes, such as heat from the sun. In SPD glass, the glass contains microscopically sized particles that are suspended in a liquid or gas. When an electrical current is applied, the particles align themselves in a way that controls the amount of light that passes through the glass.
Applications of smart glass:
Smart glass technology has a wide range of applications in the modern world, including in architecture, automotive, and aviation industries.
In architecture, smart glass is used for windows, skylights, and partitions, among other things. Smart glass can help to control the amount of light and heat that enters a building, reducing energy consumption and improving comfort for building occupants. It can also be used for privacy, with the glass becoming opaque when a switch is flipped, providing privacy for meeting rooms, bathrooms, or bedrooms. Additionally, smart glass can be used for aesthetic purposes, creating unique and eye-catching designs.
Smart glass technology is also becoming increasingly popular in the automotive industry, where it is being used for car windows and sunroofs. Similar to architectural applications, smart glass in cars can help to reduce heat buildup in the car, improving comfort for passengers and reducing the need for air conditioning. Smart glass can also enhance the safety of the car by reducing glare and providing privacy for the passengers. Additionally, smart glass can be used for aesthetic purposes, making the car look more modern and sophisticated.
Smart glass technology is also being used in aviation for aircraft windows. Smart glass can help to reduce the weight of the aircraft, improving fuel efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. Additionally, smart glass can provide better visibility for pilots, reducing glare and making it easier to navigate through clouds and other weather conditions. Smart glass can also improve the passenger experience by reducing noise and providing a more comfortable environment.
Benefits of smart glass:
Smart glass technology offers several benefits, including energy efficiency, improved comfort, increased privacy, and aesthetic appeal. By reducing the amount of heat and light that enters a building, smart glass can help to reduce energy consumption and save money on heating and cooling costs. Smart glass can also provide a more comfortable environment for building occupants, reducing the need for air conditioning and improving overall wellbeing.
Smart glass can also provide increased privacy for building occupants, whether it is for individual workspaces, conference rooms, or bedrooms. Additionally, smart glass can be used for aesthetic purposes, creating unique and eye-catching designs that can enhance the overall appearance of a building or vehicle.
Challenges of smart glass:
While smart glass technology offers many benefits, there are also some challenges associated with its use. One of the biggest challenges is the cost of the technology, which can be expensive compared to traditional glass. Additionally, some types of smart glass technology can be difficult to install, requiring specialized expertise and equipment.
Another challenge is the durability of the technology. Smart glass can be prone to scratches and other forms of damage, which can reduce its effectiveness over time. Additionally, the technology can be sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, which can affect its performance.
Smart glass technology is a rapidly evolving field with many potential applications in the modern world. From architecture to automotive and aviation, smart glass has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with the built environment, making buildings more energy-efficient, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing. While there are challenges associated with the use of smart glass technology, the benefits it offers are substantial and have the potential to make a significant impact on the way we live and work. As the technology continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see what new applications and innovations emerge.