Thanks to rapid urbanization and technological advancement, skyscrapers and high-rise buildings are a common sight today. With this, however, comes the added costs of maintaining a building’s cooling units. In truth, indoor cooling systems consume quite a sizeable amount of power. As a way of solving this problem, a group of Singaporean scientists, of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), has designed an incredibly smart and intuitive window that doubles as a rechargeable battery. What is more, this “breathing” window is capable of turning itself blue, without the help of any extraneous power supply.
Running on chemical energy derived from atmospheric oxygen, the self-powered window acts as a perfect alternative to other high-tech blinds and shutters that are usually dependent on external power sources. Although somewhat limited in its scope and functionality, the window-cum-battery is far more economical and convenient than its fancier counterparts. Developed by Professor Sun Xiaowei and his NTU team, the window exhibits dual functions. Its self-tinting quality allows users to partially block out the incident sunlight. Additionally, it serves as a highly specialized electrochemical battery that gets charged by simply absorbing the oxygen present in the air.
The contraption contains two glass panes that are connected to each other by means of electric cables. The space between the glass sections is filled with an oxygen-bearing liquid electrolyte, while the panes themselves are covered with transparent conductive coatings. One side of the film is attached to an aluminium foil, and the other is smeared with blue dye that is sensitive to oxygen. An open circuit, between the glass segments, causes the dye to react with the oxygen carried by the electrolyte and turn blue almost instantaneously.
Consequently, the tinted window manages to block as much as 50-percent of the incoming sun rays. Now in the case of closed electrical circuit, the dye returns to its previous, transparent state, without the need of an external energy source. Talking about the project, that was published in the Nature Communications journal, Sun Xiaowei said:
[The window] charges up and turns blue when there is oxygen present in the electrolyte – in other words, it breathes.
What makes the technology even more valuable is the fact that it can power small gadgets with the chemical energy obtained from atmospheric oxygen. The ingenious window acts as a self-charging, transparent electrochemical battery. In order to test its efficiency, the prototype developed by the researchers was used to power a tiny, red LED. The team is currently looking for ways to make the technology more commercially viable. If successful, the project will indeed prove to be revolutionary in the field of green architecture.