Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have invented a new flexible smart window material that, when incorporated into windows, sunroofs, or even curved glass surfaces, will have the ability to control both heat and light from the sun. Their article about the new material will be published in the September issue of Nature Materials.
Delia Milliron, an associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, and her team’s advancement is a new low-temperature process for coating the new smart material on plastic, which makes it easier and cheaper to apply than conventional coatings made directly on the glass itself.
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Ref: Linear topology in amorphous metal oxide electrochromic networks obtained via low-temperature solution processing. Nature Materials (22 August 2016) | DOI: 10.1038/nmat4734
Amorphous transition metal oxides are recognized as leading candidates for electrochromic window coatings that can dynamically modulate solar irradiation and improve building energy efficiency. However, their thin films are normally prepared by energy-intensive sputtering techniques or high-temperature solution methods, which increase manufacturing cost and complexity. Here, we report on a room-temperature solution process to fabricate electrochromic films of niobium oxide glass (NbOx) and ‘nanocrystal-in-glass’ composites (that is, tin-doped indium oxide (ITO) nanocrystals embedded in NbOx glass) via acid-catalysed condensation of polyniobate clusters. A combination of X-ray scattering and spectroscopic characterization with complementary simulations reveals that this strategy leads to a unique one-dimensional chain-like NbOx structure, which significantly enhances the electrochromic performance, compared to a typical three-dimensional NbOx network obtained from conventional high-temperature thermal processing. In addition, we show how self-assembled ITO-in-NbOx composite films can be successfully integrated into high-performance flexible electrochromic devices.