Smart Window Solutions Should Stop Energy Loss

At MIT you work on a number of concepts for more efficient windows. Among other things, an aerogel that is lighter than marshmallows and provides 50 percent better insulation than traditional glass panes.

According to the US Energy Agency, buildings account for 40 percent of the country’s energy consumption. But according to the authority’s calculations, about 30 percent of that energy is lost by heat leaking or penetrating through the windows of the properties.

Developing window glass with a minimal energy loss is thus an important contribution. At MIT, a team works on several solutions. Among other things, researcher Elise Strobach has spent two years developing “Aeroshield”. It is a transparent silica airgel that consists of 95 percent of air. The other five percent are silica nanoparticles that are only 1-2 nanometers in size.

Lighter than marshmallows

The material is lighter than marshmallows and blocks all three types of heat loss: conduction, convection and radiation. The gas trapped in the small cavities prevents the collisions required for convection, and the nanoparticles absorb the radiated energy and send it back in the direction it came from. Placed between the glass panes, Aeroshield provides a 50 percent higher degree of insulation than traditional windows.

Can be combined with other MIT concepts

Elise Strobach believes that Aeroshield could be combined with other concepts developed at MIT. Among other things, a smart film that is transparent as long as the surface temperature is below 32 degrees, but becomes opaque when the heat exceeds this.

The function is based on thermochromic microparticles that change phase during heat. In its opaque state, the material can block up to 70 percent of the sun’s radiation from passing through the window. The team behind the solution thinks that sensors embedded in the windows should measure sunlight, luminance and temperature. That’s what MIT writes.

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