Partnership develops low-cost, tunable window tintings

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC), in partnership with Hewlett Packard and EMD/Merk Research Labs, have developed “tunable window tintings,” in an effort to replace traditional architectural shades and assist in automotive privacy.

Decorative, solar control or privacy film – which is the best choice? This partnership has developed a way to incorporate all three into a single film.
The product can be dimmed from clear to shade, can change colors, and also has the ability to vary light transmittance from clear to opaque, which also provides privacy for the user.
While the film has solar control properties, Jason Heikenfeld, UC professor of electrical engineering and the man behind its development, is betting consumers will pay more for the aesthetics.
“You can sell the product to people who are interested in green products, but it’s not as compelling to the general consumer,” he says. “We think they will pay more for privacy control and light control.”
Heikenfeld says his creation is not only comparable to traditional window film performance, but offers more flexibility.
“You can probably mimic the performance in existing film,” he says, though admits the film has not been tested for solar control properties. “You can get close to maximum clarity that you can get with the film, opacities and color tints that will match anything else on the market, though you can only choose two color options.
“For example, you can choose amber and blue. If you mix those two, you get black. With amber, you have warm lighting and with blue you have cool lighting.”
According to UC, it was a “challenge” to keep the cost of the new material under $30 per square foot. Heikenfeld also says that the initial market for the film will be automotive and will have a 10-year lifespan in that application. For residential and commercial buildings, it will last 20 years, he says.
One of the researchers’ goals is to partner with window manufacturers to apply the film during the fabrication process—a goal that current window film manufactures have yet to accomplish.
Heikenfeld says the “roll-on coating” will also be sold as a retrofit and would be installed by certified “laminaters.” The product has now been turned over to a commercialization partner, the name of which has not been released yet.