Wed, Nov 18, 2015 - Page 3 News List

NTU researchers develop smart glass, nanoparticle

JAPAN JOINT STUDY:The new smart glass can reduce a building’s absorption of sunlight by 25 percent, enabling air conditioner use to be cut by 20 percent, the team said

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

National Taiwan University (NTU) research teams yesterday announced the development of electrochromic smart glass that turns from transparent to black when a small current of electricity is applied, and the formulation of a synthetic nanoparticle that is able to extract oil from algae and turn it into biodiesel.

The team, led by NTU chemistry professor Ho Kuo-chuan (何國川), developed an electrochromic glass the color and opacity of which alternates when an electric current is applied, changing the oxidation of the material’s atoms.

The invention can be used to reduce a window’s absorption of sunlight, with buildings covered by the glass expected to absorb 25 percent less sunlight, which translates into a 20 percent reduction in air conditioner use, Ho said.

Smart glass is used in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, in antiglare rear-view mirrors for cars and in low-energy-consumption displays, Ho said.

The glass is the world’s first electrochromic composite material made with metal macromolecules which are capable of changing color within two seconds, with the glass able to achieve a 52.7 percent difference in opacity, he said.

The team can make flexible glass with different colors using metal ions, which can be coated onto smart glass using an ordinary inkjet printer, he said.

Meanwhile, an NTU research team led by NTU chemistry professor Wu Chia-wen (吳嘉文) synthesized a magnetic nanoparticle for harvesting microalgae, extracting algae oil and converting the oil’s fatty acids into a methyl ester, which is used in biodiesel.

The team used iron oxide and silicon dioxide to form nanoparticles, which, when applied to algae solution, magnetically attract algae and convert their fat into biodiesel with an alkaline-based catalyst, Wu said.

Traditional algae-harvesting methods require large amounts of energy to break down cell walls, but the team’s nanoparticles effectively convert algae oil to biodiesel with a maximum yield of 97.1 percent of the oil’s fatty acid methyl esters, compared with existing methods, which yield less than 60 percent, Wu said.

Microalgae contain the highest fat content among biomaterials commonly used to produce biofuel, so microalgae has replaced corn and barley as a favored source for the industry.

Referring to the past few years’ food safety and tainted oil scandals, NTU president Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池) said that nanoparticles can also turn waste cooking oil into biodiesel.

The two innovations were the results of the NTU’s cooperation with Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science, a long-term project in the fields of energy, biomedicine, photonics and nanotechnology, Yang said.

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