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Light-Activated Curtains Could Cut Air Conditioning Bill In Half [Video]

UC Berkeley researchers are developing "smart curtains" that can bend or straighten in response to light.

Leah Gonzalez
Leah Gonzalez on January 15, 2014. @leahgonz

Researchers at University of California, Berkeley are developing “curtains” that move in response to light.

The light-activated “smart curtains” are made from carbon nanotubes layered together onto a plastic polycarbonate membrane. The nanotubes, which are atom-thick rolls of carbon, absorb light within just fractions of a second, converts it into heat, and transfers that heat to the surface of the membrane. The plastic polycarbonate membrane expands in response to the heat, but the layer of nanotube does not, causing the material to bend.

The researchers, led by Ali Javey, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, experimented with the nanotubes to test the reactions to different wavelengths of light.

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According to Javey, the material is easy to make and very sensitive to low-intensity light. The research team sees the material as something that could be used to create more energy-efficient buildings since curtains made with it can automatically open or close without the need for batteries or electricity.

The research was recently published  in the Nature Communications journal. The project is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

The clip below shows a quick demo of how the “smart curtains” work.

UC Berkeley

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