Energy Efficient Windows
Development of versatile transparent aerogel panes
Virginia Commonwelath University researchers have developed a versatile high-performance aerogel-based window design. Currently, insulated double-pane windows are the dominant energy efficient window type on the market. While they are superior thermal insulators when compared to single-pane windows, which account for about 30% of windows in the Northeast and Midwest U.S., the double-pane windows have been slow in replacing single-pane windows. This is because double-pane windows are more expensive, less durable, and their frames are often too wide for the existing single-pane settings. Not only could our aerogel-based windows provide a desirable and effective replacement for single-pane windows, they could also provide enhanced thermal insulation over double pane windows.
Figure 1. A) Cross-linked aerogel sample showing high optical transparency; B) Observed view through an aerogel window
While aerogels and nano-foams are typically produced with expensive supercritical drying processes, the presented novel aerogels are fabricated using the freeze drying method. Our custom processing allows for the fabrication of custom-shaped aerogels, reduces the costs of production by roughly 50%, and significantly reduces production hazards. Aerogels produced using this method have several enhanced properties compared to traditional aerogel materials. While traditional aerogels are typically brittle in nature, the newly-developed aerogels are more durable due to the crosslinking of polymer chains. Additionally, while traditional aerogels are fairly opaque, the new aerogels have a high degree of transparency. The enhanced characteristics make them a desirable alternative for thermal insulating window panes and also allow for aerogels to be considered for a wide range of building and industrial applications.
Figure 2. Example of how aerogel material could be incorporated into a double pane window