Researchers discover new glass technology

February 11, 2016
Kenneth Chau (left) and and Loïc Markley (right) coated small pieces of glass with extremely thin layers of metal. Credit: Matthew Grant, UBC

Imagine if the picture window in your living room could double as a giant thermostat or big screen TV. A discovery by researchers at the University of British Columbia has brought us one step closer to this becoming a reality.

Researchers at UBC's Okanagan campus in Kelowna found that small pieces of glass with extremely thin layers of metal like silver makes it possible to enhance the amount of light coming through the glass. This, coupled with the fact that metals naturally conduct electricity, may make it possible to add advanced technologies to windowpanes and other glass objects.

"Engineers are constantly trying to expand the scope of materials that they can use for display technologies, and having thin, inexpensive, see-through components that conduct electricity will be huge," said UBC Associate Professor and lead investigator Kenneth Chau. "I think one of the most important implications of this research is the potential to integrate electronic capabilities into windows and make them smart."

The next phase of this research, added Chau, will be to incorporate their invention onto windows with an aim to selectively filter light and heat waves depending on the season or time of day.

Lead investigator Kenneth Chau develops new glass technology by coating small pieces of glass with extremely thin layers of metal. Credit: Matthew Grant, UBC

The theory underlying the research was developed by Chau and collaborator Loïc Markley, an assistant professor of engineering at UBC. Chau and Markley questioned what would happen if they reversed the practice of applying glass over metal—a typical method used in the creation of energy efficient window coatings.

"It's been known for quite a while that you could put glass on metal to make metal more transparent, but people have never put metal on top of glass to make more transparent," said Markley. "It's counter-intuitive to think that could be used to enhance light transmission, but we saw that this was actually possible, and our experiments are the first to prove it."

Explore further: Apple granted patent for all-glass iPhone, iPad building process

More information: Mohammed Al Shakhs et al. Boosting the Transparency of Thin Layers by Coatings of Opposing Susceptibility: How Metals Help See Through Dielectrics, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep20659

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3 comments

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baudrunner
1 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2016
Photochromic lenses using a silver halide, usually silver chloride, were developed by Corning in the 1960's. They darken automatically when exposed to UV light, but not to conventional indoor lighting. Ideas proposed in this article such as using windows for thermostats, or digital displays, are not new.
NIPSZX
not rated yet Feb 11, 2016
With every new addition of human life that becomes so-called "smart," the more the traditional objects actually become smarter and technology merged devices become "dumber" and harder to maintain. Could you imagine having to update your windows, technologically? Plus, too many screens becomes overwhelming, I barely have time to read my feeds and watch TV, imagine having to check your windows for new information also.
doep100
3 / 5 (2) Feb 12, 2016
What OS will it run, Windows for Windows?

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