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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2018-03-07 09:05:52
  • Article ID: 690696

Smart Glass Made Better, and Cheaper

Engineers develop eco-friendly panels that switch from transparent to opaque

  • Credit: University of Delaware

    Electrical engineers at the University of Delaware developed their version of smart glass technology. It starts opaque but turns transparent when filled with index-matching fluid, as shown in the bottom portion of this pane.

Someday we won't need curtains or blinds on our windows, and we will be able to block out light--or let it in--with just the press of a button. At least that's what Keith Goossen, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Delaware, hopes.

Goossen and Daniel Wolfe, who earned a doctoral degree from UD last year, developed panels that can switch between allowing light in and blocking it out. This "smart glass" technology could be utilized in eco-friendly windows, windshields, roof panes and building envelopes, absorbing light and heat in the winter and reflecting it away in the summer.

Although Goossen isn't the first scientist to make smart glass, his team's invention is about one-tenth the price of other versions. It is also more transparent in its transparent state and more reflective in its reflective state than competitors, he said.

Goossen shared his latest smart glass prototype on Monday, March 5 in a keynote address at the SPIE Smart Materials and Nondestructive Evaluation for Energy Systems IV conference in Denver.

Simple idea, clear results

The principles behind this smart glass technology are surprisingly simple. It starts with two sheets of plastic separated by a thin cavity. The plastic contains tiny cube-shaped structures that make the material retroreflective, meaning that it bounces light back to its source, like a bicycle reflector does.

Then the chamber is filled with a fluid called methyl salicylate--an inexpensive wintergreen extract that happens to be the active ingredient in some over-the-counter pain relief creams. This liquid has optical properties, or interaction with visible light, that match the optical properties of the retroreflective plastic. When combined, the light can pass through, and the system becomes transparent. This is called refractive index matching.

Goossen's smart glass system can switch from transparent to reflective a thousand times without degrading, as shown in a paper published late last year in the journal Optics Express.

At this week's conference, Goossen revealed a new, improved design.

Instead of utilizing cubes, this smart glass relies on the total internal reflection of one-dimensional structures layered perpendicularly. It is highly reflective at up to a 60-degree angle of incidence, an improvement over the previous prototype.

"It performed better than we thought it would based on our theoretical understanding," he said.

Goossen uses 3-D printing to make his prototypes, but this technology could eventually be manufactured at a high volume and low cost using injection molding. He is now testing his system over a wide range of temperatures to see how it performs, especially as it approaches temperatures that could cause the fluid within to freeze, which will be between 3 and 16 degrees Fahrenheit, depending upon the eventual fluid that is used. Every time Goossen talks to a roomful of engineers about this project, hands go up with lots of questions.

"There is a lot of interest in the capability this might represent," he said.

Commercialization may eventually follow--something Goossen is already well versed in. An author of 82 issued patents, he founded a startup company in 2001 that was later acquired. He passes his knowledge along to students as a co-teacher of High Technology Entrepreneurship, a course for undergraduate and graduate students that focuses on financial, legal, scientific and engineering issues facing tech startups.

Goossen also encourages students to be curious. This research project started with a hunch, which can be the impetus for scientific discovery.

"Sometimes it's just an instinct about what might be interesting," said Goossen.

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Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

Greater than the sum of its parts

Argonne scientists and their collaborators have developed a new model that merges basic electrochemical theory with theories used in different contexts, such as the study of photoelectrochemistry and semiconductor physics, to describe phenomena that occur in any electrode.

A prize-winning measurement device could aid a wide range of industries

Companies dealing with liquids ranging from wastewater to molten metals could benefit from a prize-winning device developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University.

After 150 years, a Breakthrough in Understanding the Conversion of CO2 to Electrofuels

Using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, Columbia Engineers are first to observe how CO2 is activated at the electrode-electrolyte interface; their finding shifts the catalyst design from trial-and-error paradigm to a rational approach and could lead to alternative, cheaper, and safer renewable energy storage.

Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

X-Rays Uncover a Hidden Property That Leads to Failure in a Lithium-Ion Battery Material

X-ray experiments at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have revealed that the pathways lithium ions take through a common battery material are more complex than previously thought.

Graphene helps protect photocathodes for physics experiments

Argonne researchers have used thin sheets of graphene to prevent photocathode materials from interacting with air, which increases their lifetimes. Photocathodes are used to convert light to electricity in accelerators and other physics experiments.

Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

Seeing Between the Atoms

New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

The Next Phase: Using Neural Networks to Identify Gas-Phase Molecules

Argonne scientists have developed a neural network that can identify the structure of molecules in the gas phase, offering a novel technique for national security and pharmaceutical applications.

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JCESR renewed for another five years

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced its decision to renew the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), a DOE Energy Innovation Hub led by Argonne National Laboratory and focused on advancing battery science and technology.

Binghamton designated as NextFlex New York Node for flexible hybrid electronics initiative

NextFlex has designated Binghamton University to be the New York "Node" for its flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) initiative. As the NextFlex New York Node, Binghamton will design, develop and manufacture tools; process materials and products for flexible hybrid electronics; and attract, train and employ an advanced manufacturing workforce, building on the region's existing electronics manufacturing base.

First Particle Tracks Seen in Prototype for International Neutrino Experiment

The largest liquid-argon neutrino detector in the world has just recorded its first particle tracks, signaling the start of a new chapter in the story of the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). DUNE's scientific mission is dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of neutrinos, the most abundant (and most mysterious) matter particles in the universe.

Tais Gorkhover Wins LCLS Young Investigator Award for Pioneering Novel X-ray Imaging Methods

Tais Gorkhover, a principal investigator with the Stanford PULSE Institute, will receive the 2018 LCLS Young Investigator Award, granted to early-career scientists in recognition of exceptional research using the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray free-electron laser at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

ORNL, United Kingdom Lab Partner on Nuclear Energy Research

The United Kingdom's National Nuclear Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have agreed to cooperate on a wide range of nuclear energy research and development efforts that leverage both organizations' unique expertise and capabilities.

Nat Fisch receives Fusion Power Associates' Distinguished Career Award

Feature describes lifetime career award for PPPL physicist and professor Nat Fisch.

Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator Expands Focus to Include the Food-Water-Energy Interconnection

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is expanding its program to advance technologies that address the interconnection of food, water and energy.

Graham George receives Lytle Award for contributions to X-ray absorption spectroscopy

Graham Neil George, professor and Canada Research Chair in X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) at the University of Saskatchewan, has been chosen to receive the 2018 Farrel W. Lytle Award for his outstanding contributions to synchrotron science at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

UIC company develops hybrid air-conditioning system with help from DOE

NETenergy, a clean tech startup company based on technology developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago and licensed from UIC, will commercialize its unique hybrid, super-efficient air-conditioning system with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.The $500,000 grant was awarded to NETenergy's partner, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, as part of the DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund.

STAR Team Receives Secretary's Achievement Award

The Brookhaven Lab scientists, engineers, and support staff who run the Solenoidal Tracker (STAR) experiment at the Lab's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) received one of 17 Achievement Awards presented by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry at the Secretary's Honor Awards ceremony held in Washington, D.C. August 29.

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Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

Seeing Between the Atoms

New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene

New method can make films of atomically thin carbon that are over a foot long.

Discovered: Optimal Magnetic Fields Suppress Instabilities in Tokamak Plasmas

U.S. and Korean scientists show how to find and use beneficial 3-D field perturbations to stabilize dangerous edge-localized modes in plasma.

New Electron Glasses Sharpen Our View of Atomic-Scale Features

A new approach to atom probe tomography promises more precise and accurate measurements vital to semiconductors used in computers, lasers, detectors, and more.

Getting an Up-Close, 3-D View of Gold Nanostars

Scientists can now measure 3-D structures of tiny particles with properties that hold promise for advanced sensors and diagnostics.

Small, Short-Lived Drops of Early Universe Matter

Particle flow patterns suggest even small-scale collisions create drops of early universe quark-gluon plasma.

Tuning Terahertz Beams with Nanoparticles

Scientists uncover a way to control terahertz radiation using tiny engineered particles in a magnetic field, potentially opening the doors for better medical and environmental sensors.


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