A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory is using nanomaterials to improve the energy efficiency of existing single-pane windows in commercial and residential buildings.
The team was recently awarded a $3.1 million grant from DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop a technology that could help achieve that goal. The nanofoam the team is developing – known as a nanocellular composite with super thermal insulation and soundproofing – uses gas bubbles less than 100 nanometers in diameter to block the transfer of heat and sound through glass windows while allowing visible light to pass through and maintain a clarity similar to normal windows.
“That’s really the trick, blocking the heat and sound transfer while maintaining transparency,” said Ralph Muehleisen, principal building scientist at Argonne. “It’s fairly simple to develop a coating that insulates, but getting one that is thin and you can still see through is a substantial technical challenge.”
The nanofoam, which will be extruded into sheets about three millimeters thick, creates a thermal insulation effect by using the tiny bubbles to reduce collisions among gas molecules, thereby reducing the transfer of heat energy. When the bubbles are reduced to that scale, super thermal insulation becomes possible.