SMART WINDOWS THAT CANCEL NOISE & LIGHT
Finally it’s your Sunday sleep-in-day but the hustle and bustle, and the rumble of cars has already half awakened you. Warm sun rays filtering through the windows have left you in perspiration. What do you do?
If you say “switch on the AC (air conditioning), ignore the noise and try to fall asleep again”, you’re probably not alone. The temptation to crank that AC up to its coolest is a strong one. It’s also one that could be killing our planet – and your bank account.
Turning the AC on, not only results in breaking your bank account, it also burns more fossil fuel, which in turn is responsible for temperature changes all across the globe. Global warming is what we’re talking about. The melting ice caps are just the tip of the iceberg (of course). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if technology could help us save the planet without breaking into a sweat? Fortunately, with some ingenuity from the big brains at A*STAR, it looks like that day isn’t too far off. And it all starts with windows.
Doggies? Nay, Speakers - in the Window
When we think of speakers, we think of amplification of sound and noise. And yet, many of us don’t know that speakers can be used to subdue noise as well!
A*STAR researchers collaborating with the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and National Environment Agency (NEA) have created Smart Windows equipped with sensors that can detect outdoor noises. What comes next is pretty amazing. Transparent speakers (How sci fi is that) applied to the window glass can then send out sound waves of opposing phases, thereby dampening the sound in the room!
The traditional method of creating soundproof rooms is by using sponge-like noise absorption materials. However, they are opaque and thus unsuitable for windows. These speakers, being paper-thin and transparent, are therefore more ideal for urban settings, where noise levels are high and ventilation limited. (Fun fact, do you know Singapore is top 10 noisiest capital cities?)
So now we know how transparent speakers will protect you from the screeches and crunches of the early morning rush, but how can they help cool the planet? For that, researchers took inspiration from your eyes. Or rather, what’s covering them up and protecting them from the sun.
Like Sunglasses, But Bigger
The great thing about glass is how it lets all the lovely sunlight in, allowing us to appreciate the view without stepping foot outside. The bad thing about glass is that it also lets in near-infrared radiation – also known as “heat radiation”.
Near-infrared radiation is why your room heats up and has you reaching for the AC remote in the early hours of the morning. However, a new window coating developed by A*STAR researchers has proven effective in blocking ninety percent of near-infrared radiation, while still allowing nearly eighty percent of visible light through.
The coating is created by nanomaterials containing nanoparticles doped with a chemical element called antimony. Adjusting the antimony concentration allows researchers to control the near-infrared radiation that is absorbed by the coating. What’s even better is that this coating is light-responsive, which means that when it’s dark outside, the windows remain highly transparent allowing light to come through. However, when it’s bright and sunny, the nano-coating causes the windows to become darker, keeping you cool with a comfortable glare without the need of using a blind, and the AC off. Whether it’s bright outside or dark, your electricity bills stay low.
Cooler and Quieter
Global carbon dioxide emissions are at a record high. Polar ice caps are melting at an unprecedented rate. WHO estimates that an additional 250,000 people will die every year between 2030 and 2050 due to the impact of climate change. Meanwhile, noise pollution is a serious problem that affects millions, increasing stress levels and contributing to various health problems. The new technologies which are being developed at A*STAR can go a long way in solving these problems without affecting our quality of life.
Scientists and researchers of A*STAR are fine tuning both these technologies and getting them ready for market, so don’t be surprised if your homes get fitted with these smart windows in the future. After all, it’s good for the planet…and for your Sunday morning sleep.
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