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12 July 2017

Solar Powered Smart Windows to Help You Control Heat in Your Home

When it’s a hot day, the last thing you want is to be melting in the comfort of your own home. That’s why researchers at Princeton University have set out to try and stop that.

The team has developed a new form of smart window that is solar powered, meaning they are much more efficient at reducing the heat in existing buildings. Previous designs, while capable of saving a building’s energy costs by 40%, were only easy to install in structures that had not already been fitted with windows. The newer models are hoped to be produced in a flexible version that can be applied via lamination, so that people can install them on the interior of their homes without any need to replace the windows they already have.

The windows use organic semiconductors which have a chemical structure that allows them to absorb a narrow range of wavelengths, namely near-ultraviolet light. They control the amount of sunlight and heat that can enter a room by changing its translucency, becoming less transparent when there’s more light and vice versa.

On why they chose near-UV light to power their smart windows, director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment Yueh-Lin Loo said that:

“The solar cells can be transparent and occupy the same footprint of the window without competing for the same spectral range or imposing aesthetic and design constraints. Typical solar cells made of silicon are black because they absorb all visible light and some infrared heat – so these would be unsuitable for this application.”

While the researchers at Princeton University aren’t the first to develop transparent solar cells for smart windows, their competitors have all focused on using infrared energy as opposed to near-ultraviolet rays. These projects are more powerful than the one developed by Princeton; however they are less capable at regulating the flow of heat in and out of a building.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.