A Brief Overview of Electrochromic (EC) Film Technology
The word “electrochromic” may not be familiar to most people. It should be, given its rising popularity in windows and other uses globally.
The simplest path to understand the definition is to dissect the word into two parts: electro and chromic. The prefix “electro” is fairly easy to understand. Electro forms words that refer to electricity or various processes that involve electricity.
Chromic is derived from chromium a chemical element with the symbol Cr and atomic number 24. It is lustrous, hard, brittle and a steely-grey in color. It is also the main ingredient in stainless steel. In its lustrous, hard and brittle for it transitions metal and is highly valued for its anticorrosive properties.
By using electrical charges, lithium ions and neutrons change certain materials such as glass, paper and metals to smart glass sometimes referred to as switchable glass or dynamic glass.
The Technological Process
In the electrochromic technology process liquid crystals are placed between layers of designated material.
In electrochromic film there is a thin film laminate of liquid crystal particles shaped like rods that are placed between two pieces of glass or plastic, or as a film, attached to one layer.
The image that results is of a glass box with electrodes at the bottom, a separator and one or two layers that have a thin electrochromic film that changes light or heat. This type of film is referred to as smart film.
When the layer of film provides privacy such as in luxury cars and limos, this is known as PDLC film. One of the most common uses of PDLC film is for computer and laptop screens.
Where to Find Electrochromic Film
Since the 1960s electrochromic devices had mainly been the domain of the optical industry.
When sunglasses changed light in varying degrees, people realized this was a convenient way to protect eyes from too much ultra violet sunlight. It wasn’t long before the optical industry realized the use of electrochromic technology was an excellent application for regular eyewear.
The field of electrochromic devices are not limited to the optical industry. Across the globe electrochromic devices are found in medical facilities and research laboratories.
Depending on the sourced electrochromic material composed of chromophores, other electrochromic materials include metal oxides, tungsten oxide which are the most well-known electrochromic materials.
Where To Buy Electrochromic Film
The most common buying sources of electrochromic film depends on the application for which it will be used. For example, electrochromic material can be used for energy efficiency as well as energy savings for windows and doors for homes and buildings.
These are likely to be sold wholesale for new building and construction projects. However, home and building owners may also contract with window and door installers to provide electrochromic replacements for existing windows and doors.
Also many auto body shops and auto detailers can install opaque EC film on cars, trucks, vans and industrial vehicles.
Architects and engineers purchase design equipment that is equipped with EC technology. For example, instead of lugging CAD equipment to a site to be designed, an application known as Augmented Reality applications allow architects and engineers to wear a pair of field glasses treated with EC film to provide details and models of a prospective site application.
It’s interesting to note that liquid crystal electrolytes that comprise EC film can be applied as a gel to glass or paper materials.
If you can think of a use for smart windows and doors fairly easily, it won’t be long before you find dozens of other uses in a home of business for convenient, useful liquid crystal film.
For example, your local hardware store may sell self adhesive film for a bathroom window. This type film adds an opaque tint to the window that ensures privacy.
Since this film is energy saving as well as heat and light adjusting, switchable smart film is useful in hydroponic garden rooms or for growing plants and shrubs in hot houses.
Self adhesive EC film is a less costly way to create temperature controlled rooms. Check with your local garden supply store to purchase self adhesive film for garden rooms and hot houses.
Solar Selling Features
Most certainly there are many online suppliers of EC film. Some of the biggest and most recognized are names like SmartTint, one of the largest sources of EC film.
Check with your local solar energy supplier regarding the use of solar panels coated with EC film material. This is a good investment and increases home and property values.
The solar selling features that utilize EC film include the ability to provide solar heat from energy stored in photovoltaic electrochromic cells.
Keep in mind that the energy savings of solar originates from the energy efficiency of solar as a renewable energy.
When EC film is applied to solar panels, the process is relatively easy to understand. Solar energy is stored in Photovoltaic cells.
With the addition of EC film, a solar photovoltaic electrochromic (PV-EC) device can achieve color change in EC layers based on the intensity of sunlight that has been converted by electrode power.
There are several types of solar powered electrochromic devices available in recent years. These include:
- Dye sensitized solar cells
- Planar structure PV-EC devices
- Photoelectrochromic (PEC) devices for optical, medical and aviation
The major producers of EC film include:
- Saint Gobain/SageGlass
- View Inc.
- Corning Inc.
- AGC Inc.
- Polytronix Inc.
- Gentex Corporation
- Omron Industrial Automation
The top producers of EC film are usually companies closely tied to glass technologies. The features of the products of these EC film producers should be reviewed for energy efficiency benefits as well as for additional features such as optimal sunlight control, peak heating and cooling, individual tint zones and glare control.
View Inc. offers EC film in their EC products that is manufactured and sold to large corporations. They are located in Silicon Valley C.A.
Some of their largest customers in the workplace are Uber, Hewlitt Packard, Google and Fedex. However, their clientele extends to educational facilities, real estate, healthcare and aviation industries.
Saint Gobain originally began as a manufacturer of mirrors. Saint Gobain is a multinational company that specializes in abrasives and glass. The company touts its trendy interior glass as a selling point. Their most recent innovation is to provide glass products that transform interior designs to state-of-the-art, fully functional windows and doors manufactured with EC technology.
Polytronix Inc., located in Richardson, Texas specializes in privacy glass and relies on EC technology to manufacture and sell their PolyBlind™ Switchable Privacy Glass. Their created a unique technique for switchable glass blinds. The design of these blinds include diamond shapes and chevrons embedded in smart glass.
Another of the Polytronix products is the use of switchable smart glass. It can transform from opaque to transparent states with a flip of a switch. It is suitable for use in ERs, hospitals, ICUs, office conference rooms, agricultural nurseries and shower enclosures in homes, gyms and school facilities.
Omron Industrial Automation is also a multinational company that specializes in vision system designs for robotics, sensors, safety components and a host of other industrial related products. Omron uses EC film for the design of several of their detection devices.
AGC Inc., located in Tokyo Japan is a world leader in the use of light and color in the optical industry as well as its technological advancements with electronics, ceramics, glass and chemicals.
AGC designs, engineers, manufactures and sells insulating glass using EC technology that reflects heat from buildings and sends it back into the buildings’ interiors.
This prevents heat loss and contributes to the atmosphere and comfort of occupants. In addition, AGC offers architectural glass that may be assembled with double or tripe glaze which further increases its insulating features.
For smaller projects, EC film can be purchased from retail chains like Home Depot, Lowes or Ace Hardware stores that supply heat controlling EC film.
Don’t forget to check out supplies for your hydroponic gardens for home or business that these retailers supply. They also supply light changing auto supplies as do most stores that sell auto supplies exclusively.
Many toys also rely on EC technology for color changing balls, fire trucks and night lights. These toys are manufactured for children and adults.
When you know more about electrochromic film technology, it is easier to know where to buy electrochromic film. Many people stock up on electrochromic film in self adhesive forms as seasonal insulation.
The overwhelming popularity of eyewear that offers light changes could conceivably lead to eyewear that changes to variable focus of light for the wearer to increase peripheral vision.
Perhaps, the clue to the advancement of electrochromic film lies with the hi tech use of virtual and augmented reality devices and drones. It’s easy to see how much the gaming industry relies on graphics and 3D images that can shape shift and change color dynamically and dramatically.
Drones are mainly equipped with locating systems. By adding electrochromic film to drone lenses they would have the ability to detect heat and varying degrees of light. At present few drones have optical lenses attached.
Looking for more info about electrochromic products? Check out these other helpful guides:
- What is Electrochromic Glass?
- What is Electrochromic Film?
- Electrochromic Film for Cars
- EC Film for Existing Windows