Researchers at Princeton University have created a prototype for ‘smart windows’ which, using a controllable glazing, can augment cooling, heating, and lighting systems through tint variation.
About the Smart Windows
The new type of solar cell in the windows is able to use near-UV light (invisible to the human eye) – perfect to use for to power the system, which is estimated to save up to 40 perfect of an average building’s energy costs. The panels are able to change the tint of windows through a special controllable gaze – subsequently managing heat, light and cooling.
As they require some power for operation (which is generated by the solar cell), retrofitting these windows is a project that still has a few challenges ahead of it – but it’s a massive step forward in solar panel technology.
Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo, director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and the Theodora D. ’78 and William H. Walton III ’74 Professor in Engineering, is one of the authors of a paper published last month to discuss the smart window tech, developed in her laboratory. Loo was quoted as saying “Using near-UV light to power these windows means that the solar cells can be transparent and occupy the same footprint of the window without competing for the same spectral range or imposing aesthetic and design constraints.” As for the need for a different way of looking at the solar cells, Loo stated that “Typical solar cells made of silicon are black because they absorb all visible light and some infrared heat — so those would be unsuitable for this application.”
Loo, along with doctoral student at Princeton Nicholas Davy have started a company called Andluca Technologies based on the new technology and are looking into other ways to utilise it. this ‘near-UV’ solar cell technology could, for example, power IOT (internet-of-things) sensors or other low power devices. “It does not generate enough power for a car, but it can provide auxiliary power for smaller devices, for example, a fan to cool the car while it’s parked in the hot sun,” Loo said.
Davy said that the research team are currently hard at work developing a flexible version of their technology – so you would be able to ‘peel and stick’ it onto existing windows, subsequently controlling them from an app. According to Davy this would “instantly (improve) energy efficiency, comfort and privacy”.
While it looks like this tech is still a ways off, it’ll be exciting to see how it progresses and is implemented into future projects.