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Windows Get Smart

No, not the computer kind.

1 min read
Windows Get Smart

We’re used to displays doing windows—but what would we do if every window on a building were also a display?

That’s not a farfetched idea, insists Frank Shiu, deputy division director of Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute’s (ITRI) Display Technology Center. Shiu is working with using electrowetting displays as window glass. This technology relies on transparent honeycombs of glass or plastic that contain droplets of colored liquid in each compartment. Electronics on the edges of the display control the behavior of the droplets, contracting them down so they are nearly invisible, or expanding them to cover their compartment with color; researchers around the world are working on the technology with an eye on the e-book market.

Shiu and his team have a ways to go before electrowetting technology starts replacing ordinary window glass. In particular, they’ve got to figure out how to make it cheaper, right now, adding the necessary electrodes and pigment to window glass costs about US$10 for 39 cm2 inches; that means glass for an average window would cost around $200. And that doesn't include the cost of the control electronics or the solar cells that would power the systems.

ITRI estimates that the price can come down to $60 for 1 m2 as the manufacturing process improves, for the materials involved aren’t particularly expensive. Shiu envisions these windows replacing shades and blinds, with early versions custom made to match room décor, and later versions able to display images, for example, details about products in store windows.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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