New plasma technology creates ’smart’ windows

Double and triple glazing windows have long been an effective way of insulating

Double and triple glazing windows have long been an effective way of insulating against the cold in Europe and North America, however window insulation has traditionally been less popular in Australia.

Windows that efficiently conserve energy by responding to light, heat and other environmental factors may soon become a reality thanks to a team of environmentally aware, plasma surface engineering experts at the University of Sydney.

The plasma deposited material is applied to glass which can then be programmed to varying transparencies that change depending on the season. The glass responds to the environment by allowing more sunlight to enter a building on cold days, while minimising the in-flow of light on hot, summer days.

"Our findings open up the possibility of fabricating a new generation of materials that are transparent, conductive, and electrochromic."

Double and triple glazing windows have long been a popular way of insulating against the cold in Europe and North America, however window insulation has traditionally been less popular in Australia.

On average, Australians spend $4.6 billion keeping cool each year, with heating and cooling making up almost fifty percent of energy costs in Australia, both of which have a negative environmental impact.

Previous smart windows coatings were limited to electrically conductive materials. The coatings developed by Dr Akhavan’s team can instead be used to convert any transparent material, including commercial glass and flexible polymers, to one which can change transparency when prompted by an electric signal. The process is carried out at room temperature and produces almost zero waste.

Dr Akhavan hopes the new technology will decrease dependency on air conditioning and other methods of electrical heating and cooling, so as to decrease Australians’ carbon footprint and environmental damage wrought by the burning of fossil fuels.

"To minimise the impact of climate change, we must invest in sustainable development by applying premium building materials which can insulate against the weather, whilst reducing our dependence on electricity." he concluded.

The new study was published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

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