Thermochromic materials and coatings for smart buildings and defence applications

Oxford researchers have developed solution-based, scalable processes for the production of powders and thin-films of thermochromic metal oxides. Such materials have numerous applications in energy management of commercial and residential buildings, protection of exposed electronics against heat damage, infra-red camouflage for military assets, and encapsulation of flexible OLED devices. The manufacturing processes make use of simple and readily available precursors, enabling low-cost adoption of the technology on a large scale.

Infra-red filtering

Thin-film technologies are ubiquitous as components of modern devices. As deposition techniques and materials science advances, an increasing number of applications will be uncovered. For example, there is now a substantial demand for materials that can perform infra-red filtering.

It is estimated that 30% of the energy used to heat, ventilate and air condition buildings in the USA is lost through inefficient windows, representing a cost of $42 billion a year (US Department of Energy). In global cities such as Taipei, over 50% of video surveillance cameras and other exposed electronics malfunction due to heat exposure. It is also estimated that the majority of military assets destroyed in conventional warfare are the victim of heat seeking target acquisition systems. There exists a clear requirement for infra-red filtering technologies to address the global challenges detailed above.

Thermochromic metal oxides

Certain metal oxides can be considered “thermochromic”. The materials exhibit states of both infra-red transparency and non-transparency, switching from one state to the other when the temperature is increased above a certain threshold. This threshold can be customised to suit applications.

The Oxford smart oxides platform

Oxford researchers have developed commercially viable processes for the production of high-quality thermochromic metal oxide powders and thin films. The scalable processes are solution-based and require readily available cost-effective precursors. This will enable low-cost adoption of the materials into consumer productions. The proprietary processes are suitable for high volume production.

Applications include:

  • Deposition on glass for energy management in buildings
  • Infra-red protective barriers for outdoor electronics
  • Infra-red camouflage against military target acquisition systems
  • Encapsulation of flexible OLED devices and flexible electronics

Commercialisation

Oxford University Innovation welcomes contact from companies interested in materials, formulations, process integration, and potential end-users of thin-film technology. The technology is the subject of two international patent applications.

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