Better Insulated Windows through Nanotechnology

The construction industry has much to gain from nanotechnology and so does your pocketbook. Two companies have joined to produce a window with an R-value similar to an insulated wall.

Windows may provide an interesting view, but they are one of the weakest points in buildings as far as heat loss is concerned. Various manufacturers are trying to reduce that loss with creative new nanoproducts made of nanoparticles that are separated by nanopores filled with air.

Stagnate air is a very poor conductor of heat, so conventional insulating material, such as fiberglass, traps pockets of air in the walls of your house to prevent heat from entering or leaving the house. In nano products, a much larger portion of the insulating material is composed of trapped air pockets, making for a better insulator.

The rating that tells you how much a window insulates from heat conduction is the R-value; the higher the R-value, the more a window stops heat from escaping. Double-pane windows are rated at about R3, while exterior walls in houses generally contain insulation that is rated at R19. (These numbers vary somewhat depending on the region of the country.)

One company that’s improving the situation is Cabot Corporation, which has developed an aerogel product that reduces heat conduction through windows. Cabot has teamed up with a window manufacturer, Advanced Glazings Ltd, to include Nanogel, a translucent silica aerogel, as an insulating layer in double-pane windows, giving the windows a rating of R17.

These windows are translucent, rather than clear, but translucent windows are acceptable or even preferred in plenty of places, and these windows could have a significant effect on heating or cooling costs.

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