This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

October 24, 2001

I Can See Clearly Now

Windows are an important part of our lives. They allow us to be inside buildings-secure, safe, and protected from the weather-while still able to enjoy the outside environment. There are some drawbacks: the windows have to be washed, they let other people look inside our homes and offices, and criminals can easily break them. As we seek privacy, our homes are our fortresses; yet we don't want to live in total isolation from the outside world.

In the future, technology will allow us to have even more windows in our homes and offices without concerns we have today. Already, many office buildings are constructed with windows that let people see out, but show outsiders a reflection of themselves and their surroundings. Window tints can be light-sensitive, adjusting with the intensity of outside light to avoid sun glare. Glass can be hardened against breakage.

Using liquid crystal technology, windows can be completely clear and transparent-then turned completely dark and opaque with the flip of a switch. The switch sets off an electric current, activating the liquid crystals. We saw this application at the Sheraton Princess Hotel, Kauai, Hawaii. In their suites, large picture windows separate the bathroom from the bedroom area. With the window transparent, guests in the bathroom can still enjoy the view out the windows. With the window opaque, the occupants have privacy.

Soon the chore of washing windows will become a memory. British glass manufacturer Pilkington announced a new product on June 21: Activ™ self- cleaning glass uses the sun's UV rays to gradually and continuously break down and dissolve organic dirt through a photocatalytic effect. Simultaneously, it reduces the surface tension of water to cause it to sheet down the surface and wash away dirt to leave windows nearly spotless. This is called a hydrophilic effect.

While the glass is in its molten state, a microscopically thin coating of titanium oxide that gives it these characteristics is applied to a surface. The composition becomes an integral part of the surface-rather than being applied after the glass is produced.

Next step: Windows as solar collectors?

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