Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy engineered a spray-on nanocrystal window coating that can be electrically controlled to regulate how much heat and light passes through it.
Wired UK explains the science behind the innovation, which the researchers described in the journal Nature. Basically, it involves extremely conductive materials that both absorb heat and change color when an electric current passes through them. A thin, transparent film applied over the coating will provide the required voltage.
According to the researchers, the materials, when combined, are able to block 50 percent of heat and 70 percent of light. The two are blocked independently of one another, so on hot, sunny days, for example, they'll be able to keep rooms cool while minimizing the need for artificial light.
The team has partnered with a startup company in California that's working to bring the product to market. Right now, they say, it will be prohibitively expensive to produce, but they're working to fix that -- and hoping that the energy savings will help offset the cost.