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Interiors: Trends in glass

Often in this space I´ve talked about how to cover windows with draperies, shutters, blinds or other privacy/sun-blocking devices. But never have I talked about electric privacy glass. Well, I did mention it many years ago when the product was pretty new, but a deeper explanation is now required since this electric glass is gaining popularity.

What is it, anyway? Well, first of all, it is glass, just like the glass windows in your house. You can see out and those who are outside can see in. What makes it different is that with the flip of a switch, the glass changes from clear to translucent, offering privacy while still allowing the light in.

How does it work? The secret is in the layers.

First, there is an outer layer of glass or polycarbonate, then an adhesive interlayer followed by liquid-crystal film. Then there is another adhesive interlayer and, finally, another outer layer of glass or polycarbonate.

Sounds complicated, so let´s delve into this a little more. It is the liquid-crystal film that affords the transition between clear and translucent. This same technology has been used in digital watches and computer screens for years. Liquid crystals are sandwiched between two layers of transparent conductive film to make the privacy film.

That film is laminated between the two pieces of glass by the glass manufacturer. When electricity is applied to the film at the flick of a switch, the liquid crystals line up and the window is clear. When the power is turned off, the liquid crystals return to their normal positions and turn the glass from clear to frosted.

The dispersed liquid crystals were invented at Kent State University back in 1983. But it wasn´t until a joint venture was made between 3M Company and Viracon that the liquid-crystal film was actually put together between two panes of glass to become a usable form now called privacy glass. It is also known as smart glass.

So where would you use this privacy/smart glass? Just about anywhere. Consider these possibilities: The shower, the front door, any or all windows in your house, skylights (to calm the noon sun), your office´s conference room. You name it - privacy glass can fit the bill.

There are many websites that will provide you with visuals on privacy glass, and some sites even allow for price quotes without any obligation, if you are interested in pursuing this. Simply type in "privacy glass" or "smart glass" in a search engine and get ready to be inundated with information.


 

24.02.2011, 3M

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