Thanks to the work of a team of researchers at the University of Texas, Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, your next car windshield or apartment window could have an efficient, low-cost way of electronically controlling its tint, while also keeping your heating and cooling bills in check. According to a release from the University of Texas, associate professor Delia Milliron and her team of chemical engineers have invented “a new flexible smart window material” that can lighten or darken with a small electric charge and can easily be applied with a new low-cost, low-temperature process.
The new application process is what actually sets her team’s material apart from existing liquid crystal panels or electrochromic windshields. While they work the same in principle, the new material is an amorphous solid made of chemically condensed niobium oxide, which has a less dense structure than similar materials, making it much more flexible and twice as energy efficient. Unlike traditional coatings which need to be applied to glass surfaces, Milliron’s material can be applied to plastics to keep costs down. While smart windows can be used to created tinted glass on demand or high-tech sunglasses, Milliron believes the new application process could also be used to create other amorphous materials like more efficient supercapacitors in the near future.