Smart glass

How can we create healthier, more sustainable buildings?


INTELLIGENT GLASS

Imagine a building filled with light, but with no need for blinds and aggressive air conditioning. We’ve made it a reality with our groundbreaking smart glass, creating eyrise™ dynamic liquid crystal windows.

Why do we need smart windows?

Humans need natural daylight - it is a fundamental part of our biology. Exposure to natural light has a whole host of health benefits, from promoting better sleep to improving our moods. Daylight supports the regulation of vitamin D, serotonin and melatonin in our bodies and promotes healthy eye development.[1]

Yet many of us now spend the majority of our days indoors, moving between our homes and offices. Modern architectural design has already begun to recognize the importance of letting natural light back into our lives, using glass in new and exciting ways. Large, often floor-to-ceiling windows help to bring a feeling of the outside in.

However, while this helps to create light-filled buildings, it can also increase building temperatures and personal discomfort for those sitting in direct sunlight. In particular, in office environments, the need to reduce glare on screens, control room temperatures or create private meeting spaces means we’re still using blinds and partitions to shut ourselves away from the outdoors and natural light.

Increased temperatures also create more demand for air conditioning, while the use of window blinds means relying on additional artificial light. All of this can considerably increase a building’s energy usage and environmental footprint.

Yet the business benefits of exposure to natural light are clear. It’s been shown that office workers who sit near windows sleep on average for 46 minutes longer than those who don’t.[2] While workplaces with good levels of natural light benefit from productivity gains between 3% and 40%.[3]

This poses the question: How do we balance our human need for natural light with the practical and environmental considerations of modern building design?

 

DID YOU KNOW?

3-40%

Workplaces with good levels of natural light benefit from productivity gains between 3% and 40%.

~90%

We spend 80% to 90% of our time indoors.[4]

1 sec

Our liquid crystal windows can provide shading or privacy screening in just one second.

Smart glass using liquid crystals - new potential in existing tech

You’re probably already familiar with liquid crystals. They are now used in everything from cell phones and televisions to microwave ovens and alarm clocks - and best known for their uses in display screens (LCDs). 

Yet liquid crystals have far wider applications. We’ve been working with them for over 100 years, almost since their first discovery in 1888, and our latest solutions have the potential to revolutionize the way we live and work.

We’ve taken the technology from LCDs and made it more durable and more robust, so that we can use it in applications like smart windows” says Dr. Ties De Jong, Head of Technology Development for our liquid crystal windows eyrise™ team.[5]

The team, based in Veldhoven in The Netherlands, has developed eyrise™ smart glass which adapts to light conditions, creating instant shading and temperature regulation to maintain a comfortable environment, while preserving natural light and outside views.

They’ve also developed privacy glass which can be used to create adaptive screening, allowing open, light-filled offices and homes to adapt to the inhabitants’ needs for private spaces without losing natural daylight.

This technology has set unprecedented standards for the use of smart glass in architecture. Not only does it allow architects to create buildings that promote wellbeing through natural lighting and outdoor views, it also gives them an important tool in accomplishing their creative vision by offering a whole range of shapes, sizes and colors.

How do dynamic liquid crystal windows work?

Our solar shading windows contain a transparent liquid crystal mixture with specific dye molecules tailored to color needs. This mixture is placed between two glass sheets coated with a transparent conductive film. At the flick of a switch, prompted by a low voltage, the liquid crystals change their orientation instantly to regulate the amount of light and heat passing through the glass. The windows always remain transparent, so even in a darkened state, natural light is preserved, and the outside view is retained.

Our switchable privacy glass works in a similar way, this time using cholesteric liquid crystal mixtures placed between glass sheets. These respond to a low voltage to turn a transparent window into one that is strongly light scattering, creating an opalescent effect.

What’s next for liquid crystal window research?

The first large commercial architectural projects using eyreise™ Dynamic Liquid Crystal Windows are already underway. These include the Niemeyer Sphere located at the headquarters of the crane manufacturer Kirow in Leipzig, Germany, one of the last works of renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

In addition, the FC Group’s new headquarters building in Karlsruhe, Germany will become the first building to use liquid crystal windows across its whole facade.

But the use of liquid crystals in smart window glass also opens up exciting technological possibilities for the future.

“Our smart glass is changing the way people interact with the spaces they live and work in,” says Dr. Michael Grund, Head of Business Field Liquid Crystal Windows at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

“As displays gain more and more space, and as the interfaces between people and information continue to develop, we can envision a future where windows are not just for letting in light, or creating privacy, but have information and content displayed on them too.”

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