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Energy-generating window switches between day, night modes

Posted: 24 Oct 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart window 

Devices are increasingly becoming smart, integrating a brain or systems that allow interactive or autonomous operation to some extent. These include phones, cars, utility meters, home appliances and, now, windows.

A collaborative work between research teams from Korea and the United Kingdom led to the successful creation of a multi-function smart window that integrates a solar cell and can generate electricity, according to Business Korea. (In related news: Transparent solar cells that can power windows?.)

The window is said to be capable of controlling the amount of sunlight penetration by automatically switching between transparent or day mode and opaque or night mode, depending upon the incident solar radiation.

The team identified an optically tunable liquid crystal as the key component of the smart window. It developed the material by combining liquid crystal materials with a spiral molecule structure integrating azobenzene compounds.

The molecular structure of azobenzene compounds changes upon contact with light, making it possible to control the spiral cycle of the liquid crystal according to the availability of the light.

The team reportedly setup the device by attaching two polarising plates on top of and below the liquid crystal. When it is dark, the spiral cycle of the liquid crystal molecules becomes short. This causes the polarisation state of the light that enters the top plate to remain unchanged, and the bottom plate blocks the light out. On the other hand, the spiral cycle of the liquid crystal molecules expands when it is bright. This time, the polarisation state of the light changes, and the light penetrates the polarising plate at the bottom.

The current smart windows can receive and block sunlight, although they require either an additional power source or manual switching to activate the system. The window developed by the team is said to provide a template for future smart window systems.

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