TUE develops even smarter smart windows for greenhouses

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Eindhoven University of Technology has unveiled a new design to make smart windows even smarter. The windows, created by Gilles Timmermans as part of his PhD project, are designed to regulate both the intensity and the spectral content of light that passes through the glass. The windows were designed with a specific application in mind – for use in greenhouses, where rising summertime temperatures can wreak havoc on crops as it gets far too warm inside. Traditional solutions rely on the use of screens, curtains or even paint to curtail the amount of light that enters.

The smart windows can switch their transparency automatically with changes in external temperature or light intensity. Credit: Bart van Overbeeke

Similar to other smart-glass solutions, Timmermans created windows that can change from transparent to hazy, by manually applying voltage. Different to other smart windows, however, his system is equipped with sensors that can detect light and temperature. With this information, greenhouses can automatically control the transition in the windows to allow for optimal light to pass through.

Taking it a step further, Timmermans’ solution also utilizes liquid crystals combined with dichroic fluorescent dyes, which enables brightly colored fluorescent systems that can also be switched to transparent or scattered. This can be beneficial for plant growth, as it enables alteration in the light spectrum. Additionally, the use of these dyes allows the system to absorb and harness the blocked sunlight for use as an electrical generator.