Buildings with "liquid windows" might be the solution.

Research focus on glass technology will be great for the skylight industry and glass efficiency.

03.20.2023 how new glass technology will help shape the future of sustainable building

Buildings with "liquid windows" might be the solution.

A prototype window was created by University of Toronto researchers that uses only water and a pumping system to allow you to adjust the brightness, color, and dispersion of sunlight. This type of techonology will be great when it comes to skylights. Skylights Puerto Rico received 90% direct sunlight all year around.

Windows and doors are powerless on their own. On a steamy summer day, you have little alternative but to call in reinforcements like shutters, shades, blinds, drapes, or, worse yet, air conditioning if you want to lessen the amount of light or heat that enters your home office.

Because both materials—if we can even call air a material—in ordinary windows, which are made of an air gap sandwiched between two solid panes of glass, are inflexible, this occurs. However, what if a paper-thin coating of water was used to occupy the space in place of the air? You would suddenly possess a malleable substance that could reflect and refract light. You could color it and combine it with a variety of chemicals and particles that can absorb heat and scatter light, allowing you to choose how much of each comes into your room via the window.

According to a recent study by University of Toronto Engineering that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the idea of "liquid windows" is based on that. A one-square-foot window constructed by the researchers has up to three layers of channels sandwiched between two panes of glass. Each of these channels carries a fluid with a different optical property, such as water, oil, or alcohol. The system may regulate the amount of sunlight entering the room, its type (think visible or invisible, like infrared heat), and how it is distributed by pumping these fluids into and out of the channels. Raphael Kay, the lead author, claims that you can make a fluid visually accomplish anything you want.

The scientists calculated that the device might save 40% more energy than smart windows that employ hazardous semiconductors like indium tin oxide. Although the concept is still in its early phases, the team thinks the technology might be ready to use in five years.This is how it goes. You could inject certain amounts of carbon black pigment powder into water or alcohol to darken the window and function as a shade device without making the window opaque if you wanted to control how much light comes through the windows. You may utilize particular pigments that absorb infrared heat and prevent it from entering the room in order to regulate the amount of heat that enters your space—independently of how much light enters.Also, if you want to direct the light, you can inject nanoparticles of different sizes that might scatter the light all the way to the back of your large living room, allowing you to cut your lighting costs by up to 10%. "You can do all three of these roles independently and dynamically because you can insert alternative chemistries and particles," claims Kay. The researchers had to physically pump the liquids in the prototype to make it function, but eventually the system may be improved to function like your Nest thermostat. The building could learn based on solar conditions and seasons, says Benjamin Hatton, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Toronto and a coauthor of the study. "This could be made most efficiently if all the windows are talking to each other and the whole building learns," he says.And that's just the useful information. You could also inject different colored pigments if you wanted to transform your space into a kaleidoscope. You would only "activate" each layer based on the functionality you want the channels wouldn't be apparent to the naked eye. And according to Kay, the view from the window would appear completely clear and without any distortion since the windows would be filled with a liquid that has the same refractive index as the glass surrounding it. It's important to note that, if it ever becomes a reality, the system wouldn't replace your current windows. Hatton asserts that it would be an impossible uphill battle. It would be attached to the inside of your current window instead, replete with a covert pumping system that has not yet been devised but will probably just need to contain a fistful of water for a typical windowpane.The technology is new, yet it draws inspiration from nature. The same team was inspired by how krill can alter the color of their skin from transparent to opaque when designing a window that can change its opacity using only oil and colored water. They examined how different squid species may regulate the iridescence or light-reflecting characteristics on their multilayered skin in this study. "We let whatever is going to come in, come in, and then we'll work it out with a ton of energy on heating, cooling, and lighting," says Kay of how we manage climate management inside buildings. The truly fascinating aspect of biology is that [animals] directly control their thermal and visual qualities. In the very near future buildings could eventually standarize this tecnology.