The 1980s gave us the technology of variable transparency glass. Despite being a non-recent event, this technology is only now getting in the prominence with the advances of «Internet of Things» and «smart living space». The basis of the so-called smart glass is a liquid crystal matrix where atoms change their position under the influence of an electric current, allowing to regulate the transparency of the window from the usual in the switched on state to completely impermeable in the switched off state.
In addition to the fact that intelligent glasses allow for more privacy, they also have many other useful properties. For example, they will not let infrared and ultraviolet radiation enter the room and, on the whole, make staying inside more comfortable – especially during record-breaking summer heat. This eliminates the need for curtains and blinds, and the air conditioning and lighting in such a room will need to be included more rarely, which saves energy.
In the office you can use such equipment in a smart room for business meetings – with the power off, it will be light enough for those inside, but for people outside, the whole course of negotiations will remain invisible. In general, where laminated glass – triplex – is traditionally used (in salons, banks, exhibition halls and studios), smart glass is increasingly coming to replace it. Designers occupied with the design of office premises often use solutions with partitions based on smart glass: in such a “room” it is much more comfortable to work than in a shared room. In general, the merits of such a glass are diverse.
The degree of illumination and temperature outside the window are fixed by special sensors; depending on their readings, the opacity of the glass changes. At the same time, the latter can change both automatically – and in accordance with the degree of transparency set by a person. Power consumption of such a system with a power regulator – a dimmer – does not exceed 7 watts per square meter of glass.
There are two main technologies for making electricity powered smart glass. The first of these, SPD, implies the presence of a special film of PDLC with the particles suspended in liquid inside. The film is placed between two glass layers or pieces of plastic. Under the influence of electricity, such a glass unit will absorb light, preventing its penetration through the particles. Usually, glasses made with this technology have a black, gray or blue color, the depth of which is controlled from the control panel. Most often, a few seconds are required to change the smart glass operation mode.
Another technology, LC, is used less often. The first glass on its basis was received in 1984 – but remained almost unclaimed until 2003, when its inventor, Steve Abadi, brought to market their product under the registered trademark E-Glass. In the company Innovative Glass Corporation, engaged in its development and promotion, Steve Abadi became chairman and chief executive officer.
The main feature of the windows made on the basis of LC technology is their ability to store enough light in the room, remaining darkened from the outside. In interiors, smart glass, among other things, can be used as a screen for the projector, transferring the colors of the image being broadcast with great clarity.
While in the US and Europe there are a lot of manufacturers of smart glass and companies that specialize in developing and implementing solutions based on it, in Russia this market is just being formed. The first proposals of this kind appeared in our country in 2009. Today Sm-Glass is one of the Russian companies specializing in this field, which since 2011 has been engaged in the production of smart glass structures and their installation. Its partner is the company LUMEN MARKET, representing the trademark Isoclima (Italy) in Russia.
Sm-Glass offers several products related to smart-glass technology. The first of these is a Smart-film film, with which you can, as in the above example, turn the meeting room into an impenetrable for outsiders. To do this, the film with the adhesive layer should be applied from the inside to the glass partition – when turned off, this solution will provide the necessary degree of confidentiality. And in the included – will pass 80 or more percent of sunlight. With careful handling, this film will last up to ten years. Sm-Glass gives a guarantee on the film of Italian manufacture – 5 years, and Korean – 2 years. Film Smart-film is usually used where there is no possibility to install two-layer smart glasses.
In the segment of smart double-glazed windows, the company offers ISOPACK windows that change their transparency within one second timeframe. In addition to privacy, such windows provide excellent noise insulation, reducing street sounds to a minimum level. Another advantage of such windows is their safety: the laminate, applied under the influence of high temperature and vacuum, makes them difficult to forced access attempts. And their matte color in the off state eliminates the need for curtains.
Another product offered by Sm-Glass, which is absolutely new to Russia, is electronic shutters. In fact, they are double-glazed windows with segment switching technology. Thanks to it, smart glass can be turned off in parts, leaving the necessary areas transparent. Which is very practical and, simultaneously, spectacular in appearance.
Electrochromic technologies make it possible to produce a molten (curved) smart carcass, which opens wide possibilities for its application for automobiles, yachts, business jets and so on. For the sake of justice, it should be noted that this is not a cheap solution. Two front door windows with the ability to adjust the light transmission, from transparent to extremely dark, together with the installation can manage to the owner of the car in the amount of about 350 thousand rubles. However, for a premium car or luxury class worth several million rubles, such, for example, as Mercedes-Benz SLK it is not an unreasonable option.
Smart glass is a relatively young but dynamically developing sphere of application of the efforts of innovators from all over the world. Every year the world’s novelties in this segment are demonstrated at the international exhibition Glasstec. In this article we only mention two or three of the most impressive products of recent years.
Glass Privacy Smart Glass was introduced in 2016 by Saint Gobain as a universal solution that allows you to create personal space. In addition to the extensive control capabilities – with the help of the remote control, built-in switch, timer, motion sensors and so on – it holds a record time for opacity alterations from the other products: only one tenth of a second. Another product of the same manufacturer – SageGlass: equipped with the light zone function, this electrochromic glass allows to regulate the heat transfer and adapts the light, due to which it is possible to more rationally darken and brighten the space.
The Spanish Dream Glass Group (DGG) demonstrated its DreamGlass Privacy Glass. This laminated glass is able to instantly change color by clicking the switch. In addition, it can be obscured and brightened by squares and strips, which provides ample opportunities for design and architectural solutions. As we could see above, similar products are already offered in Russia today.
Despite the numerous advantages of smart glass, they have one significant drawback – their very high cost: starting with thousands of dollars per square meter, the top price bracket, it almost does not. However, this situation often develops when it comes to innovative products: fabulously expensive in the beginning, with time they are becoming cheaper, entering the everyday life of people.
If we talk about the prospects of using smart glass, according to the estimates of the United States Department of Energy, its use can reduce electricity consumption by almost forty percent. Therefore, investments in the development of smart glass annually reach hundreds of millions of dollars and its global market is estimated at tens of billions. The rapid development of the smart glass market is in sync with the growing demand for energy-saving products and sustainable solutions. Therefore, it is possible that in the next decade electrochromic windows and interior elements from an exclusive offer for rich people and respectable companies will turn into a product that is accessible to many millions of ordinary citizens of different countries around the world.