Taking down your shades might be one of the ways to keep the sun out of the house, but smart windows, windows of which the glass can change tint, makes this unnecessary. A group of researchers at Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have invented a new flexible material that, when incorporated into windows, can control the tint of the glass electronically.

Smart windows are not untried. Everyone remembers Priva-lite that can be customized from transparent to opaque or the newer SageGlass that can tint, reducing both heat and glare. These both work electronically as well. Then what could be a different innovation from these? 

Delia Milliron, an associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering and her team have developed a low-temperature process for coating the new smart material on plastic, which is much easier to apply on. The team developed an electrochromic device, by which a small electric charge, as small as around 4 V can discolor the material and control the transmission of heat-producing, infrared radiation.

The new material is an amorphous solid made of chemically condensed niobium oxide, which has a less dense structure which makes it flexible and twice as energy-efficient. The process generates a material with a unique nano-structure i.e. the atoms lack any long-range organization as would be found in a crystal, and can easily switch between clear and tinted more quickly and using less power.

The next target for the team is to optimize the flexible material to make substances that overperform the traditional electrochemical materials at low temperatures. What they want to do specifically is to obstruct more infrared and tint the windows to a darker shade than it is possible by the conventional approaches.

So on the ending note, this technology of low-cost flexible window materials will act as a market disruptor in the near future and will literally make the windows smart!  

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