Engineers Boast Glass Breakthrough
Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that coating small pieces of glass with extremely thin layers of metal, like silver, makes it possible to enhance the amount of light coming through the glass.
This finding, coupled with the fact that metals naturally conduct electricity, may make it possible to add advanced technologies to windowpanes and other glass options, according to a recent announcement on the research.
“Engineers are constantly trying to expand the scope of materials that they can use for display technologies, and having thin, inexpensive, see-through components that conduct electricity will be huge,” UBC Associate Professor and lead investigator Kenneth Chau said in a statement.
“I think one of the most important implications of this research is the potential to integrate electronic capabilities into windows and make them smart.”
The theory underlying the research was developed by Chau and collaborator Loïc Markley, an assistant professor of engineering at UBC, according to the university’s announcement.
Chau and Markley reportedly questioned what would happen if they reversed the practice of applying glass over metal—a typical method used in the creation of energy efficient window coatings.
“It’s been known for quite a while that you could put glass on metal to make metal more transparent, but people have never put metal on top of glass to make glass more transparent,” said Markley. “It’s counter-intuitive to think that metal could be used to enhance light transmission, but we saw that this was actually possible, and our experiments are the first to prove it.”
What’s next? Chau said he plans to incorporate the invention onto windows in order to selectively filter light and heat waves depending on the season or time of the day.
The research was published Feb. 10 in the Nature Publishing Group’s open access journal Scientific Reports.