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Smart Window Coatings Get $3M Boost

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

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Researchers are one step closer to developing a smart window coating that can respond to changing weather conditions by regulating the amount of visible light and heat permitted to enter a building, thanks to new funding.

The Molecular Foundry’s Delia Milliron received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to work on the coating project, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Molecular Foundry
Photos: Berkeley Lab

The coating project envisions a new window that is scalable for manufacturing and affordable enough to stimulate widespread adoption, according to the researchers.

Berkeley Lab researchers and Heliotrope Technologies, a start-up company interested in the technology, are collaborating with Milliron on the project, according to a funding announcement. The Molecular Foundry is a DOE-funded program that supports nanoscience researchers worldwide.

In addition to the smart window initiative, a Berkeley Lab project to develop a system that “maps” a building’s thermal use also received a $1.94 million DOE grant.

The projects were two of 66 selected by the federal agency to feature “transformational, breakthrough technologies that show fundamental technical promise, but are too early for private-sector investment,” according to the Department of Energy. The agency doled out $130 million in total funding through its OPEN 2012 initiative.

Coating Technology Project

The “Low Cost Solution Processed Universal Smart Window Coatings” project will seek to enhance the energy efficiency of buildings through advanced electrochromic windows with improved performance and low cost, according to Berkeley Lab.

Milliron’s team aims to provide an alternative to electrochromics currently on the market that are not as flexible and are prohibitively expensive.

Roy Kaltschmidt / Berkeley Lab

Delia Milliron, Molecular Foundry deputy director, is the principal investigator of the electrochromic smart window project.

The project aims to develop a new window that is scalable for manufacturing and affordable enough to stimulate widespread adoption, Berkeley Lab said.

How it Works

The new window coating will respond to a small, applied voltage to vary the transmittance of visible light and heat-producing near-infrared radiation (NIR).

In this way, the sun’s power can be harnessed to permit maximal light and heat to enter in cold weather, while preventing unwanted heat and glare on hot, sunny days, researchers say.

“Ultimately, such dynamic windows would be integrated with an intelligent control system to maximize energy savings and make buildings more comfortable,” according to the research institution.

Building Mapping

The other Berkeley Lab grant focuses on creating a system to “map” a building’s thermal use, leading to more efficient design and construction.  

The project, “Automated Modeling and Simulation of Existing Buildings for Energy Efficiency,” is led by Philip Haves, of the lab's Environmental Energy Technology Division.

The project aims to develop sensing and computer hardware for generating physical and thermal maps of building interiors.


Cameras and scanners mounted on a backpack will allow for better digital modeling of a building, researchers said.

Haves says this technology could reduce the cost of building simulation by 30 to 40 percent, as well as the time it takes to develop a building model.

“To do this, and do it in a lot of buildings, we need better, cheaper, faster ways to generate computer models of the buildings we want to improve,” says Haves.  

From Backpack to Computer Imaging

His team plans to produce 3D indoor maps of buildings using cameras and laser scanners, transferring this data to building simulation software.

The cameras and scanners will be mounted on a backpack; a person wearing the instrument package will walk through a building to make a video of the building’s interior and exterior. A computer will then turn this video into a digital model of the building.

The simulations will allow architects and engineers to design more energy-efficient buildings, Berkeley Lab says.

Both projects have the potential to produce "game-changing breakthroughs in energy technology, form the foundation for entirely new industries, and could have large commercial impacts," according to the Department of Energy.


Tagged categories: Architects; Coatings manufacturers; Coatings Technology; Designers; Glass; Grants; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Research; Smart coatings; Windows

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (4/16/2013, 11:00 AM)

Amazing. I thought for a minute that the guy with the backpack had to be ON THE OUTSIDE of the building using a jet pack to scale the building and test the heat.

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