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Smart windows to lessen Australia’s carbon footprint

The rise of energy consumption in recent decades has led to an increasing demand for renewable energy and energy-saving systems.

A team of environmentally-aware, plasma surface engineering experts at the University of Sydney is focused on responding to the rise in energy consumption by developing a more efficient and effective smart window.

According to a recent press release, the smart window uses thin plasma fabricated coating to efficiently conserve energy by responding to light, heat, and other environmental factors; blocking off the flow of light and heat as required.

Smart Window

The new technology consists of electrochromic coatings made of transparent materials that darken in colour with the application of a small electrical voltage.

The coatings were produced for the first time using a new plasma sputtering technology.

They are made up of a layer of silver that is approximately 10,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair, placed in between two nano-thin layers of tungsten oxide.

Known as the fourth state of matter, plasma is created by adding energy to gas. Plasma is used most commonly in fluorescent light bulbs, neon signs and some television and computer screens.

A new method of tungsten oxide deposition, known as HiPIMS, produces multifunctional coatings composed of only 3 layers of applications in smart windows.

Reducing the number of layers in the coating structure has significant implications for the manufacturing of smart windows.

It simplifies the process distinctly and reduces the cost of the final product.

How does it work?

The plasma deposited material is applied to glass which can then be programmed to varying transparencies that change depending on the season.

The glass responds to the environment by allowing more sunlight to enter a building on cold days, while minimising the in-flow of light on hot, summer days.

The team’s findings open up the possibility of fabricating a new generation of materials that are transparent, conductive, and electrochromic.

The regions of Europe and North America have long been using double and triple glazing windows to insulate against the cold.

Situation Down Under

However, window insulation has traditionally been less popular in Australia.

On average, Australians spend A$ 4.6 billion to keep cool each year. In addition, heating and cooling make up almost 50% of energy costs in the country.

Both have a negative environmental impact.

Previous smart windows coatings were limited to electrically conductive materials.

The coatings developed by Dr Akhavan’s team, meanwhile, can be used to convert any transparent material, including commercial glass and flexible polymers, to one which can change transparency when prompted by an electric signal.

The process is carried out at room temperature and produces almost zero waste.

Hopefully, the new technology will decrease dependency on air conditioning and other methods of electrical heating and cooling.

Doing so will decrease the Australians’ carbon footprint and environmental damage wrought by the burning of fossil fuels.

Investing in sustainable development by applying premium building materials, which can insulate against the weather while reducing dependence on electricity will minimise the impact of climate change.

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