This week in ceramic and glass news, researchers at Harvard have developed a glass that turns opaque with the use of nanowires. Though changing-transparency windows aren’t a new technology, these windows use a less expensive means of more quickly producing the same effect. The tunable window is comprised of a sheet of glass or plastic, sandwiched between transparent, soft elastomers sprayed with a coating of silver nanowires, too small to scatter light on their own. But with an applied voltage, the nanowires on either side of the glass are energized to move toward each other, squeezing and deforming the soft elastomer. Because the nanowires are distributed unevenly across the surface, the elastomer deforms unevenly. The resulting uneven roughness causes light to scatter, turning the glass opaque—and the change happens in less than a second.
“Because this is a physical phenomenon rather than based on a chemical reaction, it is a simpler and potentially cheaper way to achieve commercial tunable windows,” said David Clarke, professor and researcher on the project.
The windows can also vary in opacity, depending on the voltage, ranging from lightly clouded to completely opaque. The windows aren’t quite ready for the market, but the team is working on incorporating thinner elastomers, which would require lower voltages more suited for standard electronical supplies.
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