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New Window Coating Darkens in an Instant

Monday, August 22, 2016

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Forget about pulling the shades when the sun starts to pour in—scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed windows that will darken themselves with the flip of a switch.

MIT researchers Mircea Dinca, Khalid Al-Kaabi and Casey Wade published research in the Aug. 11 edition of the online journal Chem describing a film of electrochromic materials that, when applied to a pane of glass, can change from completely clear to nearly black, much more quickly than previously developed materials.

How It Works

The team created the film by creating “metal-organic frameworks” (MOFs), combining an organic compound with a metal salt. These materials conduct electrons and ions quickly, the researchers say, allowing for a reaction that turns the film from clear to shaded nearly instantly.

Self-shading glass experiment
Image: Khalid Abdulaziz Kaabi and Dennis Sheberla

The MOF materials conduct electrons and ions quickly, the researchers say, allowing for a reaction that turns the film from clear to shaded nearly instantly.

Technology currently used in applications like self-shading eyeglasses is different, the researchers say; it relies on a different principle, and takes a much longer time to adjust. Likewise, they explain, the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” jet uses a similar mechanism, but due to the materials the film is made of in that case, the change in hue takes much longer.


The new self-shading glass technology could find a home in many applications, from airplanes to residences.

“You could just flip a switch when the sun shines through the window, and turn it dark,” researcher Dinca notes. Self-shading windows could also be put on a timer, to turn dark when the sun hits a particular side of a building. (They don’t, however, change hue in reaction to the light around them; they must be controlled with a switch.)

MIT says the research was funded in part by grants from The Masdar Institute, in the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. Department of Energy.


Tagged categories: Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Research; Windows

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