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Nanotechnology Report

Next-Generation Smart Windows: Materials and Markets: 2011

Category: Materials Published: Mar 2011 View Contents
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So-called "smart" windows have been available for many years but have never turned into much of a business. Windows that automatically adjust to strong sunlight by tinting to provide a more comfortable interior to buildings have failed to take off supposedly because of inferior technology. And self-cleaning windows are also decade-old product offerings that have never generated large revenues because of reportedly high price points.

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However, despite such beginnings, smart windows have a strong future ahead of them. On the demand side, the primary driver will be the price of energy that will make energy optimization of all building materials increasingly saleable products. From the perspective of next-generation smart windows an important marker of this trend is the emerging "green buildings" movement. However, in addition to these demand side factors, we also expect the technology that underpins smart windows to improve and to expand in functionality.

We also expect next-generation smart windows to add to the architectural and aesthetic appeal in buildings. And improved smart window technology means larger addressable markets for "conventional" self-cleaning and self-tinting windows; products with price points and capabilities to sell in larger addressable markets well beyond the niches they now serve.

But we also think that entirely new kinds of smart windows products will begin to make their appearance in the next few years; products that combine more traditional smart window functions with other newer technologies. For example, there is much talk about smart windows that don’t just block the sun, but serve as solar panels. Or products that combine smart windows with OLED (or EL) lighting, so windows can serve as transparent panels during the day and lighting at night. In addition, we consider that next-generation smart window technology will offer practical and sleek ways to add value to residential and commercial buildings. They are also expected to find their way into the transportation market – into mirrors and sunroofs in automobiles and to aircraft windows as well – markets where at the present time smart windows have the smallest toe hold.

Such trends will create a number of important opportunities at various levels of the value chain. These opportunities include, of course, new types of products that can be sold by firms in the window business; whether manufacturers or retailers or the companies that lie in between. But they also mean new opportunities for materials firms of all kinds who will need to supply new kinds of materials to support next-generation smart windows. This, we believe could generate substantial revenues; windows use considerable amounts of materials.

This new report explains where these opportunities are to be found and how they are best exploited. It builds on our long experience with materials used for smart building products such as lighting and building-integrated solar panels. In addition to the analysis of the market opportunities, this report also includes an eight-year forecast of the market for smart windows, by application area and by the type of “smart” functionality of the windows. This report is essential reading for firms that produce or develop smart coatings of all types and for window suppliers seeking to add value to—and make more money from—their products by giving them new functionalities.

We expect the technology that underpins smart windows to improve and to expand in functionality.