Berkeley Lab’s Paintable Window Coating

Valerie Eacret, ERS, for Zondits
March 9, 2016

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) are developing a paint-on coating that can easily be applied to windows to improve their performance. It will reflect the infrared solar energy back to the sky while allowing visible light to pass through, making it especially appropriate for warm climates. Applying this coating can be 90% cheaper than installing an entirely new window through a contractor.


Berkeley Lab Scientists Developing Paint-on Coating for Energy Efficient Windows

Lawrence Berkeley Lab, February 25, 2016. Image credit: StockSnap

It’s estimated that 10 percent of all the energy used in buildings in the U.S. can be attributed to window performance, costing building owners about $50 billion annually, yet the high cost of replacing windows or retrofitting them with an energy efficient coating is a major deterrent. U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers are seeking to address this problem with creative chemistry—a polymer heat-reflective coating that can be painted on at one-tenth the cost.

A team of Berkeley Lab scientists is receiving part of a $3.95 million award from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency­–Energy (ARPA-E) to develop this product. The multi-institutional team is led by researcher Garret Miyake at the University of Colorado Boulder, and also includes Caltech and Materia Inc.

There are retrofit window films on the market now that have spectral selectivity, but a professional contractor is needed to install them, a barrier for many building owners. A low-cost option could significantly expand adoption and result in potential annual energy savings of 35 billion kilowatt-hours, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 24 billion kilograms per year, the equivalent of taking 5 million cars off the road.

The Berkeley Lab technology relies on a type of material called a bottlebrush polymer, which, as its name suggests, has one main rigid chain of molecules with bristles coming off the sides. This unusual molecular architecture lends it some unique properties, one being that it doesn’t entangle easily.

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