The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and architectural glass and coatings manufacturer PPG announced on Feb. 20 that they received $750,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy to help fund the development of a dynamic window coating or film that manages solar heat gain and visible light transmittance without requiring solar energy or wired connections.

Instead, the forthcoming dynamic material will respond to changes in temperature. The research team is aiming for a “high level of visible light transmittance to ensure wide adoption,” a PPG representative said in an email, but it has yet to determine the transmittance level or the likely length of phase changes between the blocking and transmitting states.

The forthcoming development would be a boon for the budding markets for thermochromic and electrochromic window technology. Currently, thermochromic glass tends to darken and noticeably reduce visibility when exposed to high amounts of infrared light. Meanwhile, electrochromic glazings use external power sources to trigger phase changes.

But development in the electrochromic glazing sector hasn’t been lacking. In November, architectural glass maker SageGlass announced a wireless, solar-powered version of its eponymous electrochromic commercial glazing. A thin strip of photovoltaics, rather than a wired connection, at the edge of the window pane activates the glass tinting.

And in August, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and startup window-film maker Heliotrope developed a window coating embedded with nanoparticles that respond to different rates of programmed and manual electrical charges. The coating controls solar-heat gain and visible-light transmittance independent of one another.

PNNL and PPG will spend two years on the project, which will focus on developments to the technology in the lab. Both parties say that eventual commercialization of the technology is possible if the initial development is successful. According to the research team, widespread use of the technology could save approximately 10% annually on heating and cooling energy consumption in the U.S. alone.

Image courtesy Flickr user jaredjennings via a Creative Commons license.