Building Smarter Windows

Paul Leu and his student Sajad Haghanifar, a PhD candidate, developed a new type of glass 1,000 times thinner than a human hair which could potentially used as solar panels for smart windows.

While the solar energy industry is expanding — at an average annual rate of 68 percent from 2006 to 2016, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association — solar panels and solar cells still have an efficiency issue.

Paul Leu said, " Any light that is not being absorbed by your solar cell is decreasing the efficiency of your solar panel," and added “Anything you can do to increase your efficiency is good.” Leu said that the new glass they developed has advantagous of scattering light energy at different angles, giving the light that does bounce off a better chance to be trapped and converted into useable energy. He added, “With these nanostructures, you can get the reflection rate close to zero.” 

Using a video simulation, Leu demonstrated another feature of his glass research: via application or removal of the water as a control to turn the glass from clear to hazy. This ability for a user to choose whether the glass is hazy or clear is still in its conceptual phase, but the process could be useful in smart window applications, Leu said, allowing control over the privacy of a room or blocking glare from sunlight in homes or office buildings.Leu and his research group currently have a provisional patent on fused silica glass that combines both ultrahigh transparency and ultrahigh haze with the application or removal of water.

Interviewed by Amerigo Allegretto 412-624-6128 

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