Will Smart Glass Ever Be More Than a Boutique Product?
Since the 1980s, automobile makers have used photosensors on rearview mirrors and side mirrors for automatic dimming to reduce light glare. The technology -- also called dynamic glass or switchable glass -- is becoming a ubiquitous feature on cars and trucks, expanding to other features on vehicles like sunroofs and creating a market potentially worth billions of dollars in the U.S.
Just as solar cells were once confined to calculators and space missions, smart glass has been mostly confined to small-scale applications. But it's now increasingly being used for large, building-integrated applications to reduce energy consumption, sparking new interest from both startups and large glass makers.
There are three main types of smart glass -- electrochromic, thermochromic and photochromic. Electrochromic glass utilizes a thin film of metal oxides that can tint a window when hit with a small amount of voltage. The glass stays clear or translucent on the inside and gets darker on the outside, lowering cooling loads and reducing the need for window shades. Thermochromics and photochromics perform the same basic function by reacting to heat and light, respectively, rather than a jolt of electricity.
the global smart glass market. Although the industry will grow revenue and production volume modestly through 2016, Bloom expects the value of the market to expand ten-fold from $88 million in 2013 to $889 million in 2022.