Most people are familiar with the wonders of the microchip, but not so many appreciate that high-tech gadgets would be impossible if not for advances in the technology of glass. Smartphones, laptops, flat screen TVs, 3D headsets and wearable tech all require types of glass with very specific properties, which are achieved through controlling pigments, refractive index, glass chemistry, electrical properties and lamination techniques.
Flick of a switch
A type of high-tech glass entering the market can switch colour and opacity at the press of a button. Smartglass International is currently providing privacy smart glass for the windows of a demonstration car in San Jose, California. Other companies have developed similar glass that changes from clear to dark blue, such as Wonderlite™. This will be used to control the degree of sunlight that enters car roof windows. Similar glass will be available for domestic homes, both for privacy and climate control.
One place where needs for natural light, privacy and security issues collide is in prisons. Smartglass is discussing supplying security versions of its switchable glass for cell walls.
Smart displays embedded in or reflected on windscreens are already used in aircraft. Valtra, a division of the AGCO corporation, is bringing the technology to agricultural machines and this will arrive in lorries and cars very soon.
Research has long been concentrated on glass for climate control, both to keep buildings warmer and cooler. In tall buildings, maximum sunlight is needed to illuminate the interior but must keep the sun’s heat out. Without solar control and air conditioning, many high-rise buildings would be uninhabitable. Solar control glass allows maximum sunlight to enter a window while reflecting away most heat.
Many people choose this glass for conservatory roofs; however, UK householders are mostly interested in letting light enter and preventing warmth leaving to minimise their bills. Double glazed solar glass panels provide excellent insulation at cooler times of the year. Advice on double glazing in Hereford is available from companies such as firmfix.co.uk.
Better insulation is achieved through better glass and through better design of the double and triple glazed units. You can now have glass to keep you extra warm, extra cool, for peace and quiet, and to frustrate burglars. You can even have glass that repels dirt, making your windows virtually self-cleaning.