As summer approaches: the rising challenge of indoor heat

How new smart glass developed by the University of Notre Dame could revolutionize the way we keep our homes cool in the summer, reducing air conditioning use and environmental impact

As the days lengthen and the sun intensifies, these unmistakable signs herald the arrival of summer. With it, temperatures inside homes begin to climb, turning once comfortable spaces into almost unbearable environments. Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to escape the stifling heat without resorting to costly and polluting air conditioners? What would you do if you discovered an innovative solution that not only cools but also protects the planet?

In response to this need, a research team from the University of Notre Dame in the United States has developed a solution as simple as it is revolutionary: “smart” glass. This innovative technology has the ability to block the passage of heat while maintaining transparency to natural light, a real magic trick applied to material physics.

The work of this research group, led by Professor Tengfei Luo, was detailed in a publication in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science. Their study focuses on a special coating designed to minimize the need for air conditioning by reducing the internal thermal load caused by infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths, which normally increase the internal temperature of buildings. This coating allows visible light to pass through regardless of the angle of incidence of the sun, a feature not present in conventional window coatings, which are optimal only with a specific angle of sunlight.

Innovative materials to maximize efficiency

To overcome the limitations of existing technologies, Professor Luo and his team devised a coating made up of nanometric layers of silica, alumina, and titanium oxide applied on a glass base. Added to this is a thin layer of silicon polymer that enhances the reflow of thermal radiation outward, thus increasing the efficiency of the coating in repelling heat.

While maintaining transparency, it can reduce the internal temperature by 41.7 to 45.0 degrees Fahrenheit in a model room, even when light is transmitted under a wide range of angles. The lab results were recently published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science. Luo illustrates an analogy:

“Like polarized sunglasses, our coating reduces the intensity of incoming light, but unlike sunglasses, it remains clear and effective even when tilted at different angles.”

Beyond buildings, the technology has the potential to be used in car windows, helping to reduce fuel consumption and harmful emissions thanks to the reduced need for internal air conditioning. The University of Notre Dame’s discovery opens new prospects for a more sustainable future, where home comfort does not translate to greater environmental impact. Although the journey toward widespread commercialization of these “smart windows” will require further research and investment, the progress already made demonstrates that sometimes the most effective solutions are hidden in the smallest details, like the wavelengths of light.

Source: University of Notre Dame – Cell Reports Physical Science

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