From the title of this article, you might think I’m going to discuss six different types of glass technology. I’m not. In the immortal words of William Shakespeare “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” These terms all refer to the same concept: electrically activated, switchable glazing technology that instantly changes from transparent to opaque, creating privacy with the flip of a switch. While activated, the panels are clear, allowing full view and daylight to pass through. When powered down, the view is completely obscured.
Switchable glass is well suited to conference rooms, partitions, hospitals, front entranceways, bathrooms & windows, as it allows both openness and privacy to co-exist in a single place. Sleeker looking than curtains or blinds, switchable glass will never block your view, unless you tell it to.
Optional privacy isn’t the only benefit, switchable smart glass can also help you save on your utility bill. Having the control to allow more light in during the colder months, and less in the summer can add up to substantial savings over time. It is an alternative to the lower tech solution of electronic window shades.
How does it work? When an electrical current is sent through the glass, the appearance quickly changes from a frosted to a clear state. When the current is removed it returns to the private state. On the interior surface, the glass (or plastic) sandwiches ultra-thin layers: a separator in the middle, two electrodes (thin electrical contacts) on either side of the separator, plus two transparent electrical contact layers on either side of the electrodes. The fundamental working principle involves lithium ions (positively charged lithium atoms—with missing electrons) that travel back and forth between the two electrodes through the separator. Typically, when the window is clear, the lithium ions reside in the innermost electrode, which often contains lithium cobalt oxide. When a small voltage is applied to the electrodes, the ions move through the separator to the outermost electrode. Once within that layer (often made from polycrystalline tungsten oxide), they make it reflect light, thereby turning it opaque. The ions remain there until the voltage is reversed, causing them to migrate back so the window turns transparent once again. No power is needed to maintain electrochromic windows in their clear or dark state—only to change them from one state to the other.
Switchable Glass comes in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and compositions. It can be used for interior panels like as wall partitions, door inserts, or conference room doors. It can also be incorporated into insulated glass units, in a variety of thicknesses, for use with stationary picture windows as well as door inserts. It comes in various colors, tints and coatings (like low-e), with soundproofing options also available.
Click here to see us having a little fun with a sample at our Memphis branch.