Questions for ‘Think of this new tech as sunglasses for our windows’

a gloved hand holds a piece of glass up against a building and a blue sky, showing that the glass tints the objects behind it orange

This clear window coating keeps rooms bright and cool. Most visible sunlight passes right through, as shown in the top left. At the same time, the coating absorbs invisible, heat-raising sunlight and radiates it into outer space.

Adapted from S. Kim et al/ACS Energy Letters 2022

To accompany Think of this new tech as sunglasses for our windows


Before Reading:

  1. Does an average home tend to warm faster in the daytime or at night? What is the primary reason for this difference? During the day, do you think a house with many windows will heat faster, more slowly, or about the same as a house without windows? Explain your answer.
  2. A human eyeball detects only certain wsavelength of light, known as “visible light.” But visible light makes up only a small portion of the light moving about our universe. (Check out the entire electromagnetic spectrum here.) Why do you think we call this light “visible light?” When bees and butterflies look at flowers, they see flower markings called nectar guides, which are ultraviolet patterns outside the visible-light range. Why can’t people see these markings? Imagine if bees were to define “visible light.” How might a bee’s definition of “visible light” differ from that defined by people?

During Reading:

  1. What do researchers hope to achieve with their new window coatings?
  2. What are two types of the sunlight spectrum that we cannot see?
  3. Why does Tengfei Luo want to block those invisible types of light from passing through windows? 
  4. How does Luo hope his team’s window coating will prevent this light from contributing to climate change? 
  5. What are two examples of materials that can make up layers of this window coating? 
  6. What type of computer did the team need for its study? How is this type of computer superior to a traditional computer?
  7. What was the role of the PDMS layer?
  8. Describe the appearance of the coating, including its slight color tint.
  9. How did the treated window compare with the untreated window during the test in Phoenix, Ariz.? By how much might this new coating cut energy used to cool buildings, according to the reported simulations?
  10. How might this coating lead to reduced emissions of greenhouse gases?

After Reading:

  1. Why was the problem of figuring out the best arrangement of layers a good use for a computer model? Consider the complicated problem of climate change, which is influenced by many factors. How might powerful computer models of the future be used to help address this problem?
  2. Describe the type of place where the window coating from this story could be most beneficial for maintaining comfortable temperatures. In what parts of the world might it also be most useful? Explain your answers. Now describe a place where such a coating would not be helpful or might even cause problems. Explain your answer. Come up with an idea for a house innovation (it need not be related to windows) that would help in such a place.