Air conditioning accounts for about 75% of Abu Dhabi’s peak daily electricity usage, so reducing demand for air conditioning is critical, especially in modern all-glass buildings. Low-emissivity glass is a standard material, but it is expensive.
Typically, low-emissivity glass is coated multiple times using thin silver films and other materials. The layers are applied using a vapor deposition technique, which is relatively slow and expensive. In addition, depending upon the materials in the deposition layers, low emissivity coatings can reduce the transmissibility of visible light, and can change the appearance of the glass by giving it a red or brown cast.
The Masdar Institute glass coating technique is significant because it reduces the cost of manufacturing low-e glass. The technique still uses vapor deposition to apply the coating, but the coating itself has been changed. The team used an inexpensive metal-oxide layer that is nearly as effective in blocking light waves from the non-visible spectrum. Unlike traditional silver-based coatings, the metal-oxide coating is applied only once. This shortens the production time without significantly sacrificing performance.
Reducing the number of times a coating must be applied, and using less expensive materials that are nearly as effective, reduces the cost of production and acquisition. It also preserves the clear/neutral appearance of glass, which makes it a desirable option for new construction.
The coating material is still be refined and tested. To date, the team has worked with small-scale glass coatings, but the next step is to verify that the coatings perform similarly on larger pieces of glass. The glass coating will then undergo more rigorous performance tests to ensure that it is durable enough to perform in harsh climates.
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Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk, via Flickr.com