University of Texas-Austin (UTA) researchers have developed a flexible “smart” window material that could revolutionize architecture and vehicle design. The researchers say that the material makes it possible to control heat and light to improve efficiency, and it has the potential for opening up new solutions for as-yet-unrecognized problems, as well.
According to blogger David Bradley of Sciencebase, UTA associate professor of engineering Delia Milliron and her colleagues have devised a low-temperature, acid-catalyzed condensation of polyniobate clusters to deposit a smart coating on a plastic substrate. The approach also creates “nanocrystal-in-glass” composites; i.e., tin-doped indium oxide (ITO) nanocrystals embedded in NbOx glass. The method gives researchers an alternative to attempting to make transparent composites with glass itself.
The team has demonstrated their flexible electrochromic device, which responds to a 4-volt input to lighten or darken the material and affect the degree to which it transmits near-infrared radiation. The nanostructured material, niobium oxide is amorphous but has a unique local arrangement of linear chains of atoms. These chains allow ions to flow in and out of the material.
The team’s next challenge, according to Bradley, will be to optimize the flexible material so the low-temperature process makes substances that exceed the performance of conventional electrochromic materials.
The work was carried out in collaboration with scientists at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility and CNRS in France and Ikerbasque in Spain.