Windows are a critical architectural component of homes and commercial buildings, providing a source of natural lighting and offering the ability to take a look at the outdoor environment. Curtains and blinds have typically been used as both decorative elements and as ways to control the amount of light coming through the windows. However, a new technology is one of the current window trends that makes it possible that curtains and blinds will become obsolete.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have created a type of “tunable” glass that can be adjusted from clear to frosted to completely opaque. Since users can control the transparency of the glass itself, standard curtains and window blinds are not necessary to determining how much light gets through the glass.
The window developed by the team at Harvard can change its level of transparency in less than a second, controlled by a switch, noted technology reporter Chloe Olewitz, writing on the website Digital Trends. Unlike previous tunable windows, this one uses an electrical process rather than an electrochemical reaction.
How the Process Works
In the Harvard window, a sheet of glass or plastic is sandwiched between layers of elastomers on each side. Nanowires in the elastomers normally maintain an even distance between themselves, which allows the window to remain transparent. When an electrical current is applied to the wires, Olewitz reported, they move toward each other, scattering the light coming through the window. This process creates the different levels of opacity in the window.
Removing the electrical charge allows the nanowires to return to their original position, restoring the transparency of the glass.
The Harvard researchers believe that the electrical process will result in less expensive and more widely available applications of tunable windows, Olewitz stated. This could make tunable glass a more common component in smart homes and other technologically advanced structures.
Construction Monitor helps designers, builders, decorators and other professionals stay informed about the latest trends and developments in the construction industry. Contact us today for more information on window trends that have the potential to replace standard curtains and blinds.