New Tunable Window Tinting Could Replace Shades

Low-cost window tinting which automatically adapts for color temperatures, brightness, and privacy opacity could be a reality, thanks to new technology developed by the University of Cincinnati and industry partners.

This patent-pending invention in tunable’ window tintings goes byond blinds and existing smart windows. Most critically, the structure that makes these smart tunable windows possible is highly simple to manufacture.

Integratable into new windows or easily applied to existing windows, the tinting installs simply by means of a roll-on coating consisting of a honeycomb of electrodes.

Why the need for a new tinting technology?

According to University of Cincinnati’s Jason Heikenfeld:

“Simple electronic window switching is not enough. You need to provide consumers with something you can’t do mechanically, and for which there is already a large demand. For example, there is already proven demand for control of color temperature in the lightbulb market, and after all, windows are a source of lighting. Maybe even more compelling, go home to your neighborhood and look at the drawn blinds for privacy but which also block sunlight. What if you could have your privacy and also let the light in at any brightness you want?”

The new tinting does that. Both shading and privacy could be controlled electronically at the same time.

For example, a window could go clouded to allow privacy, but still let in 90 percent of the outdoor light. A default setting could dim the entering light or change the color of the light along a spectrum from cool blue to warm yellow. You could opt to block infrared heat from the sun in summertime but let it into the house in the winter.

Applying the technology, which is common in e-paper electronic displays on mobile and computer devices, to a bigger surface like windows is a challenge the team has been working on for the past three years.

Research leader Sayantika Mukherjee explained the device:

“Basically, one color has one charge. Another color has another charge, and we apply voltage to repel or attract the colors into different positions. The basic technology is not that different from what our group has previously demonstrated before in electronic display devices. The greater challenge was to find an appropriate device structure in order to apply the technology to the larger surface area of a window in a way that was inexpensive and fairly easy. The greater impact for us was to realize the potential of a few selective but compelling operating modes such as changing color temperature or privacy/shade.”

Photo: Courtesy of Tim Zarki, University of Cincinnati