PhotoResearchers from Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas have developed a way to transform the windows in your home or business into smart windows.

In a release, the researchers explained that the “flexible smart window material” would be able to lighten or darken the tint of a window with a small electric charge.

Coating windows, windshields, or other glass surfaces in the material would leave users with a surface that could quickly switch from clear to tinted, which could ultimately help consumers save big on heating and cooling bills.

Low-temperature process

Scientists say this smart material differs from conventional smart glasses because it is applied to plastic, rather than glass. Furthermore, the low-temperature process yields a flexible, amorphous structure that is twice as efficient as smart materials produced under high temperatures.

Disordered amorphous structures are somewhat more difficult to study compared to the ordered crystalline materials used in other smart glasses. Nonetheless, researchers were successful in characterizing their atomic-scale structure.

"There's relatively little insight into amorphous materials and how their properties are impacted by local structure. But, we were able to characterize with enough specificity what the local arrangement of the atoms is, so that it sheds light on the differences in properties in a rational way," researcher Delia Milliron said.

The material’s application would be completed in a low-cost manner that would leave consumers with a way to block all light or just some -- but that’s in the future. While the idea for the material is there, the product is not yet in a physical form.

An article on the smart material will be published in the September issue of Nature Materials.

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