Windows are undoubtedly one of the greatest sources of heat transfer in a building.  New electrochromic, switchable window technology is a recently patented high-tech solution to this prominent building deficiency.    It may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie but switchable windows are sure to be a popular sustainable building technology in years to come. 

As part of the DOE’s $76 million dollar funding, Soladigm Inc. was awarded $3.47 million.  Soladigm is a company based out of Milpitas, California that patented (U.S. patent 7,646,526) the ‘durable reflection-controllable electrochromic thin film material’ earlier this year.  This thin nanomaterial is responsible for creating windows that are 39% more efficient than low-emissive super windows (DOE). 

The efficiency of this material is due to an active layer of an alloy of antimony, lithium and other base metals.  This layer, on a glass window pane, can control the amount of light and heat that is allowed through the glass in each direction.  The patent claims the material is non-permeable to lithium, oxygen, and water.  This type of technology has been experimented with for several years now; however, the advancement achieved by this patent that makes it a winner is its durability.  Some issues can be expected with defects in early stages in production, but this has to be considered with all new sustainable innovations.  The sustainable construction industry looks forward to the release of this product as one of the most important sustainable building innovations in decades.  

Electrochromic materials have already found there place on smaller scales in the aerospace and automotive industries.  With similar uses in the building industry this option for windows and glazing will surely stretch the limits of building standards.

Soladigm remains under the radar with specifics about their operations.  The government funding along with investments from Khosla Ventures and Sigma Partners will help initiate the manufacturing and production of these switchable windows. 

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced that they were awarding $76 million to support the advancement of sustainable building technology.  Learn more about the DOE funded projects here.