With the help of $3.1 million federal grant, researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory are using nanomaterials to improve the energy efficiency of existing single-pane windows. The team is developing a nanofoam coating that uses gas bubbles less than 100 nanometers in diameter. The coating is designed to allow visible light to pass through while blocking heat and sound.
The research builds on another nanomaterial being developed at Argonne: vanadium dioxide, a phase change material that behaves differently at different temperatures. At low temperatures, vanadium dioxide is a semiconductor that allows light to pass through. At high temperatures, it develops metallic properties and blocks near-infrared light, the portion of the solar spectrum that contains about half of all solar energy. That helps reflect solar radiation on warm days. The team has created a film that can boost near-infrared blocking and is more efficient at reflecting solar radiation, all while maintaining window transparency.
The researchers hope that a combination of nanofoam and vanadium dioxide will result in single-pane windows that can match the efficiency of multi-pane low-emissivity units.