Novel hydrogel glass windows can keep your home cooler without the cost

It can be an energy saver in buildings.
Fabienne Lang

Have you ever felt the trapped heat in your apartment or in your floor-to-ceiling glass window office space? It's utterly uncomfortable. Not only that, it's an energy sucker, as more lighting and space cooling systems are required.

This heat, and thus higher energy consumption, happens because traditional glass windows let in near-infrared sunlight, which warms up a space, and their high reflection of mid-infrared sunlight minimizes heat rejection from the building.

That's why a team of researchers from Wuhan University in China, led by Prof. Kang Liu, looked into developing a novel design of hydrogel glass, explained a press release from the University.

Their findings were published in Springer in early August.

How does the hydrogel glass work?

This new glass is made up of a layer of hydrogel and a layer of normal glass. This means that a hydrogel coating just a few millimeters thick was layered over the glass and designed to reflect more of the near-infrared light from outside all while allowing more mid-infrared light to escape from inside. On top of that, the glass remains just as clearly transparent to visible light as regular glass.

Regular glass, on the other hand, is designed to allow visible light to pass through and brighten up the room, but its interactions with infrared light – what we feel as heat – are less desirable. The glass allows near-infrared radiation from sunlight to pass through while blocking mid-infrared light from escaping the room, which ultimately heats a building up. During the hotter months, that heat typically pushes people to use air conditioning more often, resulting in higher energy consumption.

Novel hydrogel glass windows can keep your home cooler without the cost
The hydrogel glass

In fact, this new hydrogel glass has a slightly higher level of visible light transmission – 92.8 percent of the visible light is let into the room, compared with 92.3 percent in normal glass, per New Atlas.

And in terms of keeping an indoor space cooler, thus minimizing energy consumption to cool it down, the novel glass proved stronger in blocking mid-infrared light – up to 96 percent of the infrared light was emitted into space. To compare, regular glass emits "only" up to 84 percent.

After tests on model houses, the team discovered that hydrogel glass was able to cool a building down by up to 6.3 °F (3.5°C), New Atlas reported.

Ultimately, this new hydrogel glass could keep buildings cooler, reducing energy consumption for cooling – benefitting both the environment and people's bank accounts. Moreover, hydrogels are easy to get your hands on and relatively inexpensive, so they could fairly easily be rolled out, which may give them an edge over other, more complex window alternatives, like transparent solar panels or liquid windows.

The hope is that we'll need to consume less energy and spend less money to keep living spaces cooler without having to lose any visibility to the outdoors. We shouldn't have to minimize our comfort for cleaner and less costly environmental situations.

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