The Future of Electrochromic Technology

Somewhere in another universe hi tech aliens must have wondered why it took earthlings so long to arrive at a place in time where electrochromic technology grew to become an acceptable, desirable use of light. While aliens were already advancing to the levels of using light to transport individuals from one planet to a neighboring planet, earthlings were still struggling with finding ways to protect themselves from the dangers of overexposure to harmful solar radiation.

Earthlings Myopic to Technologies

For some reason earthlings seem myopic by comparison to sci fi aliens when it comes to adapting to new and useful technologies. The aliens must have been quite amused by our inability to realize that most things in our universe have answers and resolutions. It could puzzle aliens to figure out how quickly we would realize the value of electrochromic technology.

Keeping Pace with the Universe

Aliens may have already developed dozens of electrochromic technology applications they are sure earthlings would eventually get around to discovering. They are watching somewhere out there as we take film and glazing to the level of advancements in electrochromic technology applications.

Alien planetary space stations and transport air buses may already be fully outfitted with an electrochromic coating that deflects unwanted planetary heat and excessive solar rays. All we came up with thus far for electrochromic glazing and other electrochromic material is photographic film, glazing, electrochromic window tech, switchable glass lenses, and reflective eyewear.

While they may be designing haute couture apparel, we figured out how to keep warmer and cooler by simply changing ordinary glass to electrochromic glass that multi-tasks the job of temperature control for homes and buildings.

To aliens an electrochromic device is a hand held, remotely controlled totally encompassing environment that changes visible light transmission, darkness, temperature and requires only thought to activate a full dimension of tasks, necessities and recreational activities through its electrochromic properties. We rely on voice activation to flip switches to activate switchable smart windows and doors or sun roofs on our vehicles. Meanwhile back on planet earth, an EC device has detection and monitoring capabilities, but requires the assistance of computers to detail specifications, ranges of detection and reflection and depths of monitoring.

Hope Springs Eternal

Aliens view our struggle to combine electrochromic glazing technologies with other hi tech advancements as comparatively slow to design and implement. With EC technology the future will see advancements in the components that comprise this technology. For instance, tungsten oxide used for electrochromic devices and the dependency on liquid crystals may be replaced with hydrogen fuel cells that have an energy-to-weight ratio ten times greater than lithium ions.

Alternatives with Possibility

Hydrogen is extremely abundant in the atmosphere, has a greater range than lithium ions and produces only water and heat as part of its energy production process. Hydrogen may present an efficient and carbon-neutral source of EC power when it has been researched in depth and more developed for use.

EC devices depend on a liquid crystal, as well as the liquid crystal size, thickness of the EC layer and its porosity. Thin film with an electrochromic coating is already in use and available for a variety of applications. For example, major window technology has advanced to where a thin film with electrochromic coating can be applied to existing window to avoid replacing them.

The Technological Mechanism

Windows for new installations are already manufactured with ec glazing. In this process the mechanism is composed of multiple layers that relies on an electrolyte, a transparent conductor, nanoparticles, a polymer film and voltage that activates the changes to flexible substrate.

Note that flexible substrates include metal foil, plastic/polymer film and an ultrathin glass material. Flexible substrates provide the EC technology with good optical transmittance especially when the substrate is highly transparent or possesses a high potential for opacity. When an electrode enters a substrate such as thin glass, it acts as a conductor through which electricity enters or exits the substance. A nanoparticle, invisible to the human eye, displays very different physical and chemical properties than larger materials used in EC technologies and is made up of a few hundred atoms. Ions are negative electrical charges caused by the loss or gain of other electrons. Thus, the core of electrochromic technology utilizes liquid crystals which under the specified electronic control changes how much light will permeate material.

Advancements in EC Technology

Whenever advancements in energy are researched and developed, the natural result is to compare it to existing technologies. In order to curb energy consumption of fossil fuels and to reduce greenhouse gases, several types of renewable energy have been developed. These include:

  • Wind turbines
  • Solar based on photovoltaic technology
  • Hydropower
  • Geothermal

The renewable energy technology most related to EC materials technology is photovoltaic and solar heat gain. By definition, photovoltaics (PV) is the conversion of light into electricity that uses semiconducting materials to result in the desired photovoltaic effect from solar heat gain. As with EC technology, light is the common denominator. The difference is that EC technology uses electricity to change light to deflect or reflect material, whereas PV technology turns light into electricity needed as a component to activate change in smart glass.

Common Uses of EC Technology

Glass is a significant optical property in creating eyewear. Today’s eyeglasses do more than correct eyesight. This is also true of sunglasses. The most common use of EC technology began with the optical, scientific and medical industries where smart glass technology lenses are a basic necessity for detection purposes. Over the last 20 years, architects, building designers and aeronautical engineers found electrochromic film and coatings provided safety, convenience and was energy efficient in diverse uses.

There has been a steady growth in the demand for electrochromic smart glass windows and doors for homes and building in recent years. This is attributable to advancements in building design, energy efficiency ratings and the realization of the benefits of materials with EC coating and film. While we may not compete with super hi tech aliens who may use thought-activated EC devices and we have yet to study the benefits of EC apparel, earthlings are already looking skyward to travel from earth to Mars.

Thus, it may not be long before our space apparel is manufactured with an EC coating. NASA may already be using electrochromic film on space station windows and doors. Perhaps, even a child’s bicycle could be finished with an EC coating to ensure a safe, reflective ride. Mirrors, vehicle windshields, office cubicles and conference rooms may not be thought activated yet. However, outdoor patio awnings, pergolas and canopies are already sold with EC coating.

Homes and buildings will inevitably face the reality that in concert with emerging energy technology and advancements, these will marry well with EC technology. Homeowners may be able to enjoy a temperature controlled home that is cost-effective and voice activates their EC windows and doors in sync with a pre-programmed timer.

Conclusion

Within ever-inquisitive minds earthlings may realize that the basic properties of electrochromic technology and the smart glass market can be singularly advantageous for common needs such as gardening, outdoor barbecues and camping. Instead of a Mylar blanket to reduce heat loss from the body perhaps these space blankets can have a dual purpose. These are made from plastic and can be coated with EC film. A space blanket can also prevent sunburn as well as keeping the body cool.

Looking for more info about electrochromic products? Check out these awesome articles:

The Future of Electrochromic Technology

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