Jeremy Munday, a University of Maryland researcher from the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics, has created the first “controllable” solar-powered smart window. With the duo-pronged ability to manipulate transparency but also harness electricity to power other devices, the smart windows can only be described as revolutionary. It also uses solar energy to power itself.
From powering other devices with its stored energy to adjusting the window’s transparency level for the sake of privacy, Munday’s smart windows help reduce a home’s carbon footprint and at the same time, eliminate the need for curtains, shades or blinds. Whether you want to power your Phillips Hue smart bulbs or your Sonos home speakers, the smart windows were designed to reduce the home’s power consumption.
So what makes these solar powered windows so different from other electricity-generating smart windows? Two things: the innovative technology and the ability for the user to adjust the light levels.
According to the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) November 16th press release, Jeremy Munday designed “a new smart window by sandwiching a polymer matrix containing microdroplets of liquid crystals, and an amorphous silicon layer – the type often used in solar cells – between two glass panes.” The technology is so groundbreaking, it’s the first smart windows that allow users to control privacy with an on and off switch. “Most existing solar-powered smart windows are designed to respond automatically to changing conditions, such as light or heat.” Users are now able to tint the windows on cloudy days or adjust the level of light on sunny days.
A recent Futurism article describes the smart windows’ most innovative tech feature: “even when turned on, the window remains opaque when viewed from certain angles – some light is still absorbed and the window is partially charging while simultaneously allowing light in – maximizing the window’s energy absorption and efficiency.” In other words, researchers created a fully customizable window that can adjust for light, heat, and energy storage.
“The ability to electrically control transparency and scattering of light is important to many optoelectronic devices; however, such versatility usually comes with additional unwanted optical absorption and power loss.” Needing 13 nanometers of amorphous silicon, Munday’s smart windows require very little energy to power itself – making his research the first of its kind.
With the recent uptick in energy efficient devices, smart windows are a welcomed technology. Whether it’s Tesla’s PowerWall 2 or SunCulture’s SolPad, solar energy inverters are instrumental in the quest to create a fully integrated sustainable future. Reducing a home’s carbon footprint depends entirely on energy generating technologies that speak to grid systems. Smart windows’ built-in tech happens to be the perfect compliment to solar energy inverter systems.