KELOWNA – A discovery by team of engineers out of the UBC Okanagan (UBCO) could revolutionize a simple household staple.
Associate professor Kenneth Chau and three engineers from UBCO are in the midst of developing something that could, in the future, turn an average window frame into a big screen TV or an energy efficient thermostat. Their innovation involves adding silver to glass.
“I don’t think we were surprised when the equations told us it was possible. I think we were surprised when we actually did it in the lab and looked at this piece of glass and saw there was more light going through it when we added metal,” says Chau.
“It’s counterintuitive because metals naturally reflect light. When you look in the mirror it’s a thin coating of metal that causes it to reflect your image. So it’s not expected that adding metal to a piece of glass will actually allow you to see through it more.”
The upgraded pieces of glass have been dubbed “smart windows.” They are more transparent than glass, and able to selectively absorb heat and light.
However, Chau says the main draw is that the project promotes sustainable living.
“In the future we’re going to have materials that we can use to more efficiently use the energy that the sun provides us. I think that’s the vision. We want to re-envision what a building really means. A building should be a smart place to live where we adapt to what is supplied to us by the sun,” says Chau.
“The consensus opinion is that it’s a very exciting finding. It’s new, it changes the way we think about metals, and maybe it could lead to more exciting discoveries.”
Development of the project began in 2014. However, don’t count on tuning into the big game on your window anytime soon. The team of researchers say commercial use is still a ways off.
– with files from Timm Bruch