Clear smart glass that generates its own electricity
It may seem like everything is becoming “smart” these days, but sometimes a new breakthrough makes you stand up and take notice. The latest one involves smart glass, which we’ve seen various types of in the past. Smart glass means more than just scratch- or shatter-resistant, like the Corning Gorilla Glass on your phone. It means the glass has some kind of special properties, like shifting tint in the sun, or preventing heat from passing through it.
That in and of itself is nothing new, either. But now a team of researched have developed a new kind of smart glass containing materials that enable the triboelectric effect, which captures the energy inherent in static electricity that occurs when two different materials collide. In other words, the glass can not only change color, but create electricity as well, as Phys.org reports.
Back in January, we reported on a flexible nanogenerator that also utilized the triboelectric effect to generate power for mobile devices by moving your body, using your skin as a source of static electricity. And we’ve seen nano-sized triboelectrics before, although they weren’t transparent.
The idea behind the smart glass is certainly different, but still pretty simple. It works like this: Glass is often subject to the elements, like rain and heavy winds. When those things collide with glass, you’ve got your necessarily two materials for the triboelectric effect. So the team developed a dual-layer glass to harness it.
The first layer contains nanogenerators that capture the positively charged energy in water droplets, which comes from rubbing against the air on the way down from clouds, the report said. The second layer holds two charged plastic sheets with tiny springs between them; as wind pressure increases on the glass, the plastic sheets are pushed closer together, creating an electric current.
The resulting glass is completely clear at first, but then develops a blue tint as it generates up to 130mW of electricity per square meter of glass. That won’t power your refrigerator, but it’ll charge your phone. And it’s sounding as if the blue tint is pretty light, i.e. still perfectly see-through, and not murkier and just translucent instead of transparent.
The next step: figuring out how to store the generated energy using embedded, also-transparent super-capacitors. The researchers also said they’re looking into how to integrate the glass with wireless networking, since there’s no separate power source needed. This is all in contrast to something like a fully transparent solar cell, which could turn every window in your home into a power source via solar energy. If and when just one of these transparent products can make it to market, it could have a profound effect on the market for renewables — and the way we power everyday devices in our homes.
What if a windows goes with smart glass?
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