The new IDTechEx report, Electrically Active Smart Glass and Windows 2018-2028 observes that electrically active see-through glass is an idea whose time has come. It powers the megatrend of structural electronics instead of the tired old components-in-a-box designs and replaces drapes and ugly solar panels that are an afterthought.

This glass saves space, weight and cost while improving reliability, ruggedness and life of electrics, electronics and active optics, making buildings more efficient and pleasant to use. Such smart glass will even facilitate the megatrend to energy independent vehicles by creating electricity from the ever larger windows of land, water and air vehicles and providing privacy, energy conservation and sun protection on demand.

Electrically active windows started with embedded demister, de-icer and antenna patterns and progressed to the darken-on-demand windows popular in airliners, superyachts, premium cars and many buildings. Next, electricity creating photovoltaic windows are increasingly seen in buildings and keenly awaited for mainstream vehicles.

The report primarily concerns the commercialisation and future of electrically active inorganic glass we call smart glass. That includes putting it in context with passive glass optically responding to heat and light and transparent electrically active polymers in windows and combinations as well.

The primary coverage is transparent photovoltaics producing electricity; electronic shades using electrically activated liquid crystals, suspended particle devices and electrochromics and thirdly structural OLED lighting. However, many other options are also covered such as the thermoelectric creation of electricity to power sensors in translucent glass and the challenges of transparent OLED displays. Passive darkening technology is compared with active.

Building skins with tunable properties have been the architects’ dream for decades. Such skins will alter the very concept of a building into that of an entity operating in harmony with nature rather as, in most cases, in stark opposition to nature and requiring energy guzzling measures such as air conditioning and artificial lighting to create a liveable indoor environment. EC foil technology, in particular, opens new roads towards membrane architecture and may make it possible to create climate shells and zones between indoors and outdoors. The membranes can be based on ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) with well documented long-term durability as a building material.

The report gives ten year forecasts for the various technologies comprising a market of around $6.5 billion in 2028 and a lot more thereafter. It explains why this is mainly concerned with new buildings and new vehicles, with some opportunity for premium pricing, and different potential for different functions. For instance, building skins with tunable properties between transparency and opaqueness for privacy has been the architects’ dream for decades. Many are now installed and other smarts such as creating electricity are already demonstrated in many buildings. Such skins will alter the very concept of a building into that of an entity operating in harmony with nature rather as, in most cases, in stark opposition to nature and requiring energy guzzling measures such as air conditioning and artificial lighting to create a liveable indoor environment.

Electrochromic foil technology, in particular, opens new roads towards membrane architecture and may make it possible to create climate shells and zones between indoors and outdoors. The membranes can be based on ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) with well documented long-term durability as a building material.

The main characteristics of active smart glass are that it involves an electrical interface and is controlled manually by the user or automatically with a sensor, remote control device or integrated building control system. It is commercialised in various ways, particularly in architectural, automotive, aerospace and marine applications. These versions are mainly electrochromic, with the greatest adoption aimed at shading, but the largest sector in 2028 is predicted to be photovoltaics.

www.idtechex.com