Smart windows that self-illuminate on rainy days

May 28, 2020

Smart windows that automatically change colors depending on the intensity of sunlight are gaining attention as they can reduce energy bills by blocking off sun's visible rays during summer. But what about windows that change colors depending on the humidity outside during the monsoon season or on hot days of summer?

Recently, a Korean research team has developed the source technology for smart windows that change colors according to the amount of moisture, without needing electricity.

The joint research team comprised of Professor Junsuk Rho of departments of mechanical and chemical engineering, Jaehyuck Jang and Aizhan Ismukhanova of chemical engineering department at POSTECH, and Professor Inkyu Park of KAIST's department of mechanical engineering. Together, they successfully developed a variable color filter using a metal-hydrogel-metal resonator structure using chitosan-based hydrogel, and combined it with solar cells to make a self-powering humidity sensor. These research findings were published as a cover story in the latest edition of Advanced Optical Materials, a journal specializing in nanoscience and optics.

Sensors using light are already widely used in our daily lives in measuring the ECG, air quality, or distance. The basic principle is to use light to detect changes in the surroundings and to convert them into digital signals.

Fabri-Pero interference* is one of the resonance phenomena that can be applied in optical sensors and can be materialized in the form of multilayer thin films of metal-dielectric-metal. It is known that the resonance wavelength of transmitted light can be controlled according to the thickness and refractive index of the dielectric layer. However, the existing metal-dielectric-metal resonators had a big disadvantage in not being able to control the wavelengths of transmitted light once they are manufactured, making it difficult to use them in variable sensors.

The research team found that when the chitosan hydrogel is made into the metal-hydrogel-metal structure, the resonance wavelength of light transmitted changes in real time depending on the humidity of the environment. This is because the chitosan hydrogel repeats expansion and contraction as the humidity changes around it.

Using this mechanism, the team developed a humidity sensor that can convert light's energy into electricity by combining a solar battery with a water variable wavelength filter made of metal-hydrogel-metal structured metamterial that changes resonance wavelength depending on the external humidity.

The design principle is to overlap the filter's resonance wavelength with the wavelength where the absorption of the solar cells changes rapidly. This filter is designed to change the amount of light absorption of solar cells depending on the amount of moisture, and to lead to electric changes that ultimately detect the surrounding humidity.

Unlike the conventional optical humidity sensors, these newly developed ones work regardless of the type of light, whether it be natural, LED or indoor. Also, not only does it function without external power, but it can also predict humidity according to the filter's color.

Professor Junsuk Rho who led the research commented, "This technology is a sensing technology that can be used in places like nuclear power reactors where people and electricity cannot reach." He added, "It will create even greater synergy if combined with IoT technology such as humidity sensors that activate or smart windows that change colors according to the level of external humidity."
-end-
The study was supported by the Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center for Future Technology.

Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH)

Related Solar Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

Solar cells of the future
Organic solar cells are cheaper to produce and more flexible than their counterparts made of crystalline silicon, but do not offer the same level of efficiency or stability.

A blast of gas for better solar cells
Treating silicon with carbon dioxide gas in plasma processing brings simplicity and control to a key step for making solar cells.

Record efficiency for printed solar cells
A new study reports the highest efficiency ever recorded for full roll-to-roll printed perovskite solar cells.

Next gen solar cells perform better when there's a camera around
A literal ''trick of the light'' can detect imperfections in next-gen solar cells, boosting their efficiency to match that of existing silicon-based versions, researchers have found.

On the trail of organic solar cells' efficiency
Scientists at TU Dresden and Hasselt University in Belgium investigated the physical causes that limit the efficiency of novel solar cells based on organic molecular materials.

Exciting tweaks for organic solar cells
A molecular tweak has improved organic solar cell performance, bringing us closer to cheaper, efficient, and more easily manufactured photovoltaics.

For cheaper solar cells, thinner really is better
Researchers at MIT and at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have outlined a pathway to slashing costs further, this time by slimming down the silicon cells themselves.

Flexible thinking on silicon solar cells
Combining silicon with a highly elastic polymer backing produces solar cells that have record-breaking stretchability and high efficiency.

Perovskite solar cells get an upgrade
Rice University materials scientists find inorganic compounds quench defects in perovskite-based solar cells and expand their tolerance of light, humidity and heat.

Can solar technology kill cancer cells?
Michigan State University scientists have revealed a new way to detect and attack cancer cells using technology traditionally reserved for solar power.

Read More: Solar Cells News and Solar Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.