Clever coating opens door to smart windows—26 February 2018

Researchers at RMIT University, supported by Australian Research Council (ARC) funding, have developed a new ultra-thin coating that responds to heat and cold, opening the door to 'smart windows'.

The self-modifying coating, which is a thousand times thinner than a human hair, works by automatically letting in more heat when it’s cold and blocking the sun’s rays when it’s hot.

Smart windows have the ability to naturally regulate temperatures inside a building, leading to major environmental benefits and significant financial savings.

Lead investigator and ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipient, Associate Professor Madhu Bhaskaran, said the breakthrough will help meet future energy needs and create temperature-responsive buildings.

“We are making it possible to manufacture smart windows that block heat during summer and retain heat inside when the weather cools,” Associate Professor Bhaskaran said.

“We lose most of our energy in buildings through windows. This makes maintaining buildings at a certain temperature a very wasteful and unavoidable process.

“Our technology will potentially cut the rising costs of air-conditioning and heating, as well as dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of buildings of all sizes.

“Solutions to our energy crisis do not come only from using renewables; smarter technology that eliminates energy waste is absolutely vital.”

The smart windows can also be operated on demand using a simple switch that controls the level of transparency of the window.

Smart windows aren’t the only clear winners when it comes to the new coating. The technology can also be used to control non-harmful radiation that can penetrate plastics and fabrics. This could be applied to medical imaging and security scans.

Associate Professor Bhaskaran said that the team was looking to roll the technology out as soon as possible.

“The materials and technology are readily scalable to large area surfaces, with the underlying technology filed as a patent in Australia and the US,” she said.

The research has been carried out at RMIT University’s state-of-the-art Micro Nano Research Facility with colleagues at The University of Adelaide and supported by the Australian Research Council.

The findings have been published in Scientific Reports – Nature.

Media issued by RMIT University.


Image: PhD student Mohammad Taha shows the ultra-thin coating developed at RMIT University.
Credit: RMIT University/James Giggacher



Original Published Date: 
Monday, February 26, 2018