New Light-Regulating Smart Windows For Greenhouses


“Greenhouse” by roanokecollege is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We all know greenhouses. They’re the special buildings that allow people to grow crops in inconvenient conditions. As the world’s population increases, the amount of available and appropriate farmland decreases. That’s why greenhouses are needed now more than ever. Despite the abilities that greenhouses have, there are still things that they struggle to control, one of those being light.

Credit: Bart van Overbeeke

In the less sunny months, people want as much light as possible to reach their greenhouses, but when spring and summer roll around, there can be too much sunlight and the greenhouses get too hot for the plants. People have tried alternative solutions like extra ventilation, but that makes it harder to control the climate inside the greenhouse and could allow pests to get in. Gilles Timmermans from the Eindhoven University of Technology solved that problem with his light-regulating smart windows. These windows have the power to change from transparent to hazy to even absorbing whenever necessary. When the glass is hazy, it lets less light go through, which prevents the temperature from getting too high. It also evenly distributes the light that made it through so that all of the crops get the same amount.  In its absorbing state, the window partially blocks the light too, while also absorbing the rest and saving it for later. Timmermans designed these windows so that they could use the absorbed light to generate electricity, then use it to alter the color of the light to benefit the growth of the plants. It generates power thanks to the liquid crystal film in between two glass panels that contains fluorescent dyes and can be controlled in a way similar to an LCD screen. Timmermans conveniently made variations of his smart window that could automatically change its transparency based on outside temperature & light changes as well as respond to environmental conditions. This technology will allow greenhouses to grow better, higher-quality crops no matter the climate and hopefully pave the path towards a greenhouse that can generate all its own power, all by itself.