We all love the glass windows in our offices. They provide us with a spectacular view and an aura of spaciousness even if the office is small. But the same glass acts as a greenhouse gas and makes our Air Conditioning units consume exorbitant units of electricity to keep the temperature down. Wouldn’t it be just nice to have some glass that can turn opaque when the temperature is warm and goes back to its normal see through self when the heat is low again? Add energy self-sustainability and this is exactly what this Smart facade is capable of doing!
The facade was developed in Germany in a collaboration between Fraunhofer institute for machine tools and forming technology and Weissense School of Art in Berlin. It was based on an idea by a student of design Bara Finnsdottir. At the core of the design, is a layout of flower shaped components each of them containing a disc fabric along with wires made of nickel-titanium alloy. The material used for this wire, by nature, has shape-memory properties. This means that although it will remain in its altered form (transparent) when the temperatures are cooler, once the temperature rises to a certain level, it will go back to its original shape and keep the disc fabrics closed. This results in the opaque nature of the wall. When the temperature drops, it will transform into its altered form once more and the light will be able to pass again.
Although it hasn’t yet been used in windows, Faunhofer says that it could be retrofitted into existing windows. There are two possible combinations for this modification. It can be used on the surface and if the glass has double panes, it can be installed in between the two glass layers.
The applications of this technology is limitless, it can be used in automobiles as well and stop the frequent glazing/unglazing of the windows according to the weather conditions. The material can be made into a lot of different shapes and sizes as well.
So if you are in Germany around 13-17 April, do check out the prototype being displayed at the Industrial trade show in Hanover. It will be an “enlightening” experience we promise you! It remains to be seen if it’s feasible to be used commercially but it is nevertheless truly amazing stuff, hats off for the people behind it.