Simple to install, durable, versatile and the perfect privacy solution, smart glass is aesthetically pleasing, cost effective and energy efficient. Lennart ten Kate explains how eLstar Dynamics’ innovative glazing technology has the power to revolutionise standard architectural concepts.
In an age where technology regularly enhances modern day life, it was perhaps inevitable that cutting edge techniques would one day be able to transform the properties of glass – one of our most elegant construction materials – at the push of a button. Lennart ten Kate, Commercial Development Director at Eindhoven based eLstar Dynamics, a high tech start-up specialising in switchable glass for both commercial and domestic use, tells us more about this revolutionary technology and the unique characteristics of his company’s new offering.
Could you give us a brief overview of exactly what ‘smart glass’ is and the technology behind it?
Smart glass, switchable glazing, dynamic glass or light control glass are all definitions used within the glazing industry to describe glass which can be controlled on demand to allow varying amounts of light through, thereby instantly switching from transparent to opaque. The construct of eLstar smart glass is its unique operating technology, which when connected to a power supply the change in electrical current causes pigment particles to disperse and alter the appearance and functionality of the glass. This allows for better heat and glare control, and the additional benefit of full privacy without becoming opaque due to the low haze level.
The transition towards smart glass has been relatively slow in comparison to other ‘smart’ technologies. In your opinion, what have been the contributing factors for this?
Although smart glass has in fact been available for many years, it’s true to say that its application has been limited to a rather niche market. Reasons for this vary, but I would say that historically competing technologies have had slow transitioning times and insufficient operating functionality, such as discoloration and limited contrast. Price may also have been a determining factor in deterring architects from specifying smart glass for new projects – despite the energy savings benefits and savings on mechanical sun blinds.
The tide is now turning and the demand for smart glass picking up pace. Could you tell us more about eLstar Dynamic’s unique technology, how it differs from that of its competitors and the advantages it brings?
eLstar Dynamics have developed a ground breaking switchable glazing technology based upon a process called electrophoresis, which separates charged particles in a fluid using electrical charge. Similar to the technology used in e-readers where the electrical movement of light and dark particles creates visible images, we’ve harnessed this principle to control electrophoretic pigment particles within our glass. This offers unprecedented contrast ratios, fast switching, the capacity to dim on demand, and low power functionality. Additionally, our switchable glass can be produced in a variety of shapes, with full control over switching speeds and transparency levels – and although black is the most popular hue, we can colour match to any specification.
Other technologies currently in the market are less advanced and fail to provide full privacy mode. Ours is based on electrophoresis – a mature and proven technology, having been applied in electronics for more than two decades. We believe that by incorporating it into our switchable glass, this gives our products an extra versatility – our windows start switching immediately, and as the minimum transparency level is below 0.2 per cent, sustainable, energy efficient methods of designing buildings will become mainstream.
In practical terms our switchable glazing offering will elicit many industrial benefits, affordability being a major player. Low investment costs will attract the interest of architects, builders and developers as a distinctive financial opportunity. Property owners will reap the benefits of eliminating the need for sun blinds, curtains or other privacy applications, which will not only reduce maintenance costs, but also lead to energy efficiencies throughout the year.
Energy efficient, high quality, switchable glass will not only be a predominant feature within the residential housing industry, but also has the capacity to disrupt other sectors. Could you outline the range of industries which eLstar Dynamics has experienced demand for its products and ways in which smart glass is set to revolutionise markets?
The automotive industry constantly evolves with faster, smarter, more efficient technology and is an area in which we see real growth potential for our smart glass applications. Benefits include UV protection, glare control, fuel consumption reduction as well as increased privacy. When applied in a sunroof for example, the necessity for a mechanical blind is eliminated, which leads to more space or a sleeker design of the vehicle, without compromising on the usability of a sun roof.
We’ve also noted the use of smart glass technology being adopted within trains. A monorail train in Singapore has windows which automatically fog when passing by apartments close to the train. The change in glazing occurring when the light transmission properties of the window are affected by the application of voltage to the surface.
However, the applications of this sophisticated technology is really only limited by your imagination. Its minimalist styling and excellent insulation properties against heat loss, UV light and sound transmission coupled with efficient energy performance and ease of use makes it suitable for numerous projects.
For instance, switchable glass installed in bar or restaurants instantly transforms an exposed area into one with greater intimacy and privacy. Its use in hospitals and healthcare settings to replace traditional interior curtains and screens reduces the risk of infection, improves patient privacy, adds an extra layer of confidentiality and enables staff to check in on patients without even entering a room. Offices, conference rooms and private meeting spaces are ideal locations for switchable glass, replacing studded walls and opening up space, creating light to aid productivity and conserving energy costs via the ability to shade and reflect heat.
Architecturally, we envisage smart glass technology to play a principal role in residential interior design. Its modern, sleek design which will appeal to the increasing demands of tech savvy consumers whilst also responding to energy conservation requirements. Exterior facing windows with controllable dimming provides instant privacy from neighbours or street views, again replacing traditional curtains and blinds with dynamic shading.
eLstar Dynamics continue to push the boundaries of its smart glass technology with a recent collaboration agreement with ClearVue PV Ltd, Australia. This is an exciting venture which amalgamates integrated glazing technologies with the unique electrophoretic switching capability to produce a completely autonomous solutions – automatically controlled lighting levels which can also intelligently integrate with IoT building and management requirements.
For further news on this collaboration, together with a detailed explanation of switchable glass technology, eLstar Dynamics’ revolutionary glazing, its products, industry applications, FAQs and contact points, please visit the company website at http://elstar-dynamics.com