The broader impacts/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project is in the development of energy-saving window products that are aesthetically pleasing. Aerogel window products have the potential to be transformative to the fenestration industry, due both to the high translucency and low thermal conductivity of the aerogel materials and the particular advantages of the fabrication method to be employed. The rapid supercritical extraction process is an environmentally friendlier approach to aerogel preparation than other methods currently used. Due to the high thermal insulating ability of silica aerogels, constructing windows from these materials will result in considerable energy savings compared to conventional windows. The fact that the optical transmission properties of aerogel materials can be tailored by varying the recipes used to prepare the aerogels can be exploited to further improve energy efficiency. The energy savings resulting from implementation of aerogel-based windows will be significant.
This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project will fund research in aerogel-based window commercialization. The specific market opportunity addressed by this proposal is in daylighting, where the goal is to provide window systems that allow natural light to be used instead of electric lights. A key challenge in such applications is to also reduce the heating and cooling costs. The low density, good optical translucency and low thermal conductivity of silica aerogel materials make them particularly attractive for these applications. The rapid supercritical extraction (RSCE) method to be employed for fabricating aerogels has the following advantages: (a) it can be easily automated; (b) it is fast; (c) it is environmentally friendlier than other methods; (d) it minimizes the use of solvents; (e) it is potentially less expensive than other methods, and (f) the process can produce large intact aerogels. During the project, a range of window prototypes based on the RSCE approach and tailored for desirable properties will be produced, and the enhanced performance of these window prototypes demonstrated. The resulting aerogel window products will offer end-use customers a higher value than current daylighting products.