Professor Huijun Zhang and PhD student Sean Lowe are using to robots to construct the smart window technology. (ABC News: Timothy Swanston)
Gold coast researchers are using nanotechnology to develop “smart windows” that could see the mass production of low-cost, energy-saving glass and lead to a huge reduction in power bills.
Glass is a popular building material because it lets in light, but its insulation properties are poor.
Researchers at Griffith University have set out to make glass more energy saving so it can, for instance, keep a building cool on hot days and warm on cold days.
For some households, electricity bills have risen up to 30 per cent in recent years, and the new technology could lead to a huge reduction in average power bills.
The Griffith researchers will spend the next three years developing high-tech glass that adapts to weather conditions and either traps in or keeps out heat, reducing the need for heaters and air-conditioners.
While the smart window concept is not new, companies have struggled to commercialise the process and make it affordable for widespread industry use.
Potential game-changer for consumers
Energy consumption for heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and lighting constitutes more than 70 per cent of total energy consumption in buildings in Australia.
Associate Professor at Griffith University Jason Byrne said the technology was a “game changer”.
“The benefits for a consumer are enormous — we’ve seen a very large rise in electricity costs in Australia recently, and that represents a real cost for people who have to run and maintain these buildings,” Associate Professor Byrne said.
“Most of that cost comes from cooling and heating… If we have this kind of technology and it becomes commercially viable in the near future, it not only means we save costs for an individual building but that scales up across an entire city.”
Heating and air-conditioning is responsible for the majority of energy consumption in buildings. (Flickr: comedy_nose)
Director of Griffith University’s Centre for Clean Environment and Energy, Huijun Zhao, said the smart windows promised significant energy savings.
“The intended outcomes of this project will facilitate the widespread adoption of energy-saving smart windows, alleviate pressure on the rising energy demand, and contribute to the goal of sustainable working and living environment,” Professor Zhao said.
“We’re working with companies in Australia and overseas, like China and Singapore.”
Professor Zhao was hopeful the team would develop a product that could be integrated into the glass manufacturing process and reduce the amount of energy consumed in buildings and homes.
“At the laboratory scale we should be able to develop these technologies but there is still a long way to go before it becomes and industry adoptable technology,” Professor Zhao said.