What Are Smart Glass Windows?
A smart glass window is a type of glass that you can use to block light, insulate, or both. An external force controls the ability of the window to transmit light. In most cases, people can activate smart glass by applying electricity, heat, or light to it. The pane turns from transparent to translucent or opaque. Other names that refer to the same glass include light control glass, privacy glass, smart tint, dynamic glass, tintable glass, and switchable glass.
The technology arose out of necessity. People wanted a way to keep using glass while maintaining privacy. The benefits of privacy glass have made it very popular for commercial applications. Commercial buildings are the largest market for smart glass products.
Types Of Smart Glass
1 | Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal (PDLC) Smart Glass Window
This type of glass dominates privacy areas such as ICU areas, bathrooms, and conference rooms. The PDLC glass contains dissolved liquid crystals suspended in a polymer.
The crystals remain suspended because they are incompatible with the other materials hence do not clamp together. When they are scattered, they disperse light and look translucent.
If you apply electricity to the glass, crystals in it align to allow more light to pass. As a result, the glass becomes transparent.
2 | Suspended Particle Glass
Particles of liquid crystal float randomly in this panel and block or absorb light. Their orientation disperses light and gives the glass a translucent appearance. You can apply varying voltages to achieve different levels of opacity.
This glass differs from PDLC because you can change the intensity of its opacity. Several devices can serve this purpose, including photosensors, apps, knobs, motion detectors, and computers.
3 | Electrochromic Smart Glass Window
The properties of this windowpane change slowly when an electric current flows through it. When you attain the level of opacity you want, you can disconnect the electricity and will not lose the effect. You can control how slowly the smart glass window changes.
This glass is commonly used in museum display cases, rearview mirrors, and building windows. One weakness of this glass is that it is not as durable as the other technologies.
4 | Photochromic Smart Glass Window
It is the first type of passive smart glass window. Instead of relying on electricity to activate, photochromic glass uses light. Specifically, the glass becomes tinted when ultraviolet light hits it. Very high-intensity beams of light can also make the glass tint.
The most popular use of this glass is eyeglasses.
5 | Thermochromic Glass
As the name suggests, this glass turns when it becomes warmer or cooler. The opacity of this glass changes when its temperature exceeds a threshold. This level is called the transition temperature. The effect happens gradually.
Advantages Of the Smart Glass Window
- Energy Savings
A smart glass window reflects sunlight and keeps the internal building temperature low. The glass can reflect up to 40 percent of the heat that strikes it. As a result, the air conditioning does not need to work very hard to maintain the building’s temperature.
You recoup the initial cost of this glass in the long run from the energy savings it provides.
Science Daily reports the significant energy savings provided by the smart glass. Buildings fitted with smart glass can use up to 35 percent less energy than conventional buildings. Additionally, smart glass during construction can reduce their steel and concrete usage by 10 percent.
- Security Barriers
Switchable glass can give you privacy instantly with the flick of a button. It is ideal for areas where you need privacy but not all the time.
You can get these glass panels with varying properties. For instance, glass panels for security applications could be fire-retardant, blast-resistant, or bulletproof to improve security.
- Protects You from Sunlight
A smart glass window designed to block sunlight can block harmful ultraviolet light. While letting light through, this glass can block up to 99% of ultraviolet radiation.
- Sound Isolation
A little-known feature of the smart glass window is sound insulation. The type of glass can attenuate up to 39 decibels of noise.
Sound insulating glass is ideal for conference centers, board rooms, and any commercial space where you do not want the sound to come through.
- It Is Environmentally Friendly
There is an increasing urgency to make buildings, particularly commercial ones, more friendly to the environment. Designers of modern office buildings are already incorporating smart glass into their projects.
The glass also helps builders of commercial buildings to comply with the legislation and protect the environment.
Disadvantages Of the Smart Glass Window
- High Up-Front Costs
Switchable glass remains quite costly despite its increasing popularity. If you install smart glass to reduce energy costs, it takes a long time to save enough to cover the cost.
The high cost of this glass means that the only place it makes financial sense is in office buildings, hotels, retail stores, or high-end residential properties.
- It Needs Electricity to Operate
Even though it can help you with significant energy savings, a smart glass window needs electricity to work. If you are in an area where the electricity is unreliable, you might be unable to use it effectively.
- Electrical Consumption
Although smart glass can reduce a building’s energy needs, they also use electricity. Typically, an electrochromic glass pane needs between 3 and 5 watts of power per square meter.
It might not sound like a lot; however, it adds up if you want to install the glass over a large area. You might be better off choosing passive smart glass instead.
How Switchable Technology can benefit the Construction and Property Industries
UK switchable technology manufacturer, Intelligent Glass, are helping to change the face of the British property construction industry with a range of products that are designed to put your space right on the forefront of cutting-edge design. It is often understood that in today’s world, technology can enhance a space beyond what has traditionally been possible, bringing the wonders of convenience and style to our fingertips like never before. Putting you more in touch with your environment, Intelligent Glass manufacture switchable privacy products that can be controlled by remote control from up to 25m away, including switchable glass and retrofit self-adhesive switchable films. Importantly in today’s market, most of our switchable technology can also be integrated into Smart Homes and Offices, allowing control via voice or a mobile device.
Thanks to the industry-leading manufacturing facilities we proudly enjoy, we are able to manufacture specialist switchable glass options including colored switchable glass, sound insulating switchable glass, fire resistant switchable glass and even double-glazed units, allowing for even further uses in design and construction applications.
Assigning this glass exclusively to simple window privacy would be a mistake, however – it’s much more than that. Switchable technology’s versatility is as impressive as its effect, allowing for such options as switchable laminated safety glass, both ideal choices for areas where glass safety is a concern, such as busy spaces, playrooms or even bathrooms. The incredible use of the switchable privacy effect in a bathroom can be used for a range of things, from entire room privacy to shower door privacy, making switchable technology a truly impressive and stylish option.
What’s more is that its applications are not just consigned to walls or partitions. Alternative and creative uses of switchable technology are cropping up constantly and recent years has seen us take part in some of the most jaw dropping applications the world have ever seen, from switchable glass stairs to switchable glass floors.
Combined with further Pro Display technologies, switchable glass can even be turned into a 4K rear projection touch screen, a perfect choice for office meeting rooms or educational applications, allowing users to hide the screen when required or double up as a window or partition privacy solution. Indeed, the discretion of switchable technology is also one of its biggest advantages to the construction industry; serving as a transparent screen as well as an invisible privacy solution, this incredibly powerful technology satisfies a variety of common design requirements that traditional solutions may not satisfy as efficiently – certainly not as stylishly.