Smart windows for a more energy efficient future

A Griffith University researcher will lead a $1 million research project into a new kind of low-cost, energy-saving ‘smart window’.

Professor Huijun Zhao, director of Griffith’s Centre for Clean Environment and Energy, has been awarded $513,210 from the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects scheme to develop the window that contains a glass that is able to change its colour and the amount of light or heat it transmits.

With substantial cash and in-kind support leveraged from partner organisation Confirmation Australia Pty Ltd, Professor Zhao and his team will develop low-cost and scalable synthesis of functional nanomaterials that make smart windows work.

Professor Zhao in the lab. Credit: Fotomedia.

Professor Zhao said windows played an important role in the energy efficiency of offices, schools and homes, and the new smart windows promised significant energy savings by reducing reliance on air conditioning, heating and artificial lighting.

“Besides residential buildings, this is particularly important for office buildings, hotels, and schools where the energy consumption for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) and lighting are more than 70 per cent of the total energy consumption,” he said.

“The ease of energy exchange through conventional windows can be almost ten times that of insulated walls and this energy wastage can account for more than 50 per cent of the energy consumed for HVAC, especially during the summer and winter.”

The research project will also facilitate the commercialisation of the new windows by investigating how the new materials can be integrated into the glass manufacturing process to assist Australia’s manufacturing industry and environmental sustainability.

“The intended outcomes of this project will facilitate the wide-spread adoption of energy-saving smart windows, alleviate pressure on the rising energy demand and contribute to the goal of sustainable working and living environment,” Professor Zhao said.

“With the advancement of materials science and the Internet of Things, smart windows will be more prevalent and will be important in building automation and energy management. Smart windows can offer several dynamic functions such as self-cleaning, thermochromics and solar-harvesting, and user-controlled functions such as heating, electrochromics, and interactive display.”

Australian Research Council (ARC) Acting Chief Executive Officer, Ms Leanne Harvey, congratulated Griffith University and Professor Zhao saying, “It is always exciting to see the ARC Linkage Projects scheme bringing together university researchers and industry to collaborate on innovative research and development projects, such as this one. I wish Professor Zhao and his collaborators all the best and look forward to seeing the beneficial outcomes that will arise from this research.”

Griffith’s Pro Vice Chancellor (Sciences) Professor Andrew Smith said: “An extremely innovative development towards smart building technology for sustainable living, also with very significant implications for glass house applications in commercial horticulture”.

Feature photo credit: Samuel Lindsay.