What is smart glass? Types, uses and examples

Smart glass What is it?

Smart glass is now a reality, and it can do amazing things that were previously only seen in science fiction movies.

We are talking about crystals capable of modifying their physical properties depending on the external stimuli they receive, which has many practical applications.

For example, they can be made opaque with the push of a button, which can eliminate the need for curtains and other privacy features.

They could even interact with the environment autonomously, letting more or less light through depending on the weather conditions, something very useful to build more efficient buildings.

It is clear that smart glass will play a prominent role in the future and that is why in this post we will show how it works, the types that exist and some of its many applications.

What is smart glass?

Smart glass or smart glass is a type of glass capable of modifying its light transmission properties in the face of certain external factors, such as electricity, light or heat.

The most common today are those that use a small electrical current to go from translucent to transparent and vice versa, also known as electrochromic.

This type of glass incorporates microscopic particles that can be controlled by electricity and that are responsible for blocking certain wavelengths.

In this way, simply press a button or use a voice command and the smart glass darkens or changes color, thus avoiding sunlight and heat.

Types of smart glasses

Smart glasses can be classified both by the external agents that make them work and by the technology they use.

In the first case we have three types of glass that can be used for different tasks depending on the need. They are as follows:

Electrochromic: they are those that use electricity to change the light transmission properties of glass. They are usually the fastest to change color and the ones with the most control.
Photochromic: they change color depending on the amount of light they receive. They generally stop being transparent in very intense light.
Thermochromic: in this case it is the temperature that triggers the color change in the smart glass depending on whether it is higher or lower.
And secondly, they can also be classified according to the type of technology used, the most common being dispersed polymer and liquid crystal with suspended particles.

Polymer dispersed crystals or PDLC

They work by means of liquid crystal particles dissolved in a polymer that has previously been solidified.

This causes the particles to be distributed randomly, making the glass opaque and with a milky-white appearance that does not allow much of the light to pass through.

When electricity is applied, the polymer becomes liquid and the particles are arranged allowing light to pass through, which makes the glass transparent again.

Depending on the voltage applied, the particles can be aligned more or less, so that it is possible to establish different levels of opacity.

Liquid crystal glasses with suspended particles

Also called SPD, suspended particle liquid crystal glass is a thin film or laminate that can be added to any window to make it smart glass.

This thin film contains in its interior a liquid full of nanoparticles, which are arranged suspended in a random way to block the light.

When electricity is applied, these nanoscale particles line up like an open blind and let light through.

Depending on the voltage applied, the particles can be aligned to a greater or lesser extent, so in this case the amount of light that passes through the glass can also be regulated.

The laminate can be used adhered to a conventional glass or embedded between two crystals or plates of transparent plastic material, which makes it very versatile.

What is it for?

Given its ability to block light and modify it, smart glass has multiple applications, both domestic and industrial.

In general, its use is linked to making windows, since they allow lighting and temperature to be controlled more effectively and easily.

Smart windows that can be used in countless buildings and vehicles such as homes, offices or even cars.

They can also be used as panels to dynamically separate spaces, as their opacity can be electronically controlled on demand.

For example, they can delimit the rooms of a hospital or the offices in a company with the push of a button.

Smart glass Advantages and disadvantages

The technology integrated into smart glasses makes them have numerous advantages over conventional glass. These are some of them:

Effective light control: unlike blinds and curtains, smart glass lets you select the right amount of light you want at all times.
Ease and convenience of use: most can be activated with the push of a button and some can even be regulated from a smartphone or tablet, so using them is comfortable and simple.
UV Protection: In its translucent state, smart glass can block the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays and still let light through for good natural lighting without risk.
Savings in air conditioning: by blocking part of the solar radiation, these windows allow light to pass through but not heat, which means savings in air conditioning. And in winter they can be configured the other way around to let the sun warm everything up.
Maintenance: with these glasses, blinds or curtains are no longer necessary, so maintenance tasks are greatly simplified. They also have no moving parts so it is more difficult for them to break down.
Privacy – Increase your privacy with the push of a button. Some of these crystals even have a mirror effect, so they allow you to see without being seen.

However, it also has some drawbacks, such as its higher cost, or the need for specialists to install it.

In any case, it is clear that in the future, the greater use of these materials will reduce prices, and the installations will be more frequent, so there will be no problems to install them easily.

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