Where next for glass technology?

Celine Glipa, CEO of Eyrise, examines how glass technology can create secure and healthy workplaces for the future while helping to achieve new levels of sustainability.

Glass technology has transformed modern building design. Architecture is about light and space, and in recent years there has been an explosion in demand for smart glass that can control solar glare and heat, providing an effective way to create beautiful, light-filled buildings that are also energy efficient.

Standard electrochromic smart glass has limitations, however. Although capable of achieving optimal light transmission, it is slow to transition which reduces visual comfort levels. The glass also displays a blue colouration on tinting that impacts the perceived colour and brightness of illuminated objects, and induces an environment that disrupts occupants’ body clocks in the afternoon by suppressing melatonin levels and raising alertness.

More recently, glass powered by liquid crystal technology has been developed which is outperforming conventional smart glass. Based on the same principles as the liquid crystal display (LCD) screens on our smart phones and televisions, dynamic liquid crystal glass is designed to react instantly and to withstand countless switching. A liquid crystal mixture is placed between two glass sheets coated with a transparent conductive film. Prompted by a low voltage, the molecules change orientation and regulate the amount of light and heat passing through, guaranteeing a long-lasting system.

Liquid crystals always remain liquid between the glass panes, making it easy to dismantle and repurpose at the end of the lifecycle too.

Used in external facades, glass produced with this advanced Eyrise liquid crystal technology can switch instantly from transparent to dark while maintaining a neutral colour, offering protection against glare and heat without compromising on natural daylight. As a result, a building will need less air-conditioning on warm days, saving vital energy and CO2.

Our definition of sustainability has evolved to include social and economic concerns as well as environmental ones. We spend most of our time indoors, so good building design needs to consider the human experience. A recent study by deep green engineering practice Elementa Consulting revealed that dynamic liquid crystal windows offer a more positive impact on occupants’ health and wellbeing than traditional electrochromic glass by maintaining their neutral colour across the tinting range and delivering high levels of visual comfort on demand.

In economic terms, a sustainable building needs to be flexible to extend its lifecycle. As we emerge from the Covid pandemic and reopen our workplaces and public buildings, smart glass technology is being integrated to provide an interior environment that is responsive to the changing needs of its occupants.

When combined with human-centric design, glass offers fresh possibilities for interior planning that enable people to work and socialise more safely. Innovations such as dynamic instant privacy glass partitions offer multiple functions for open-plan spaces, from private meeting rooms in offices and consultation areas in hospitals, to VIP zones in retail stores and interactive screens in airports. When these partitions are installed, people can choose to socially interact through transparent glass or opt for privacy with just one click.

It is an exciting time for glass innovation as we strive for smarter and more sustainable cities. Glass technology is already integral to creating dynamic buildings that balance comfort, energy efficiency and design. Looking ahead, environmental concerns and human experience are going to continue to be the dominant drivers, and technology will be the enabler.

The glass industry has an important role to play in the architecture of tomorrow and ongoing investment in glass innovation should be our top priority as it is an investment in all our futures.