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MIT Researchers Create Self-Cleaning Glass that is Anti-Fogging and Glare-Free
Glass is a fundamental building material with thousands of practical applications, and if you believe what the folks at Corning are selling, our use of glass is only going to grow in the coming years. But typical glass has a few flaws, as anyone who has stepped into a steamy room wearing glasses can attest – it has a tendency to fog up at inopportune times, and it can also produce annoying glare. But a team of researchers at MIT claim to have developed a new and improved glass that is both anti-fogging and glare-free. The near-invisible glass is also said to be self-cleaning, and it could have dozens of practical applications.
How does this magical new glass work? By depositing thin layers of material on a surface and then selectively etching them away, the MIT team was able to produce a surface covered with tiny cones, each of which are five times taller than their width. The cone pattern both prevents reflections and repels water from the surface. When droplets of water hit the cone surface they reportedly bounce away like tiny rubber balls. The team hopes that the glass can be manufactured inexpensively, possibly by passing partially-molten glass through a pair of textured rollers.
The possible applications for this new type of glass are intriguing. According to a story published by the MIT News Office, the self-cleaning glass could be used for optical devices, the screens of smartphones, and televisions. The article also mentions that the glass could be used in the windows of buildings, but we hope it wouldn’t add to the problem of birds crashing into windows. Perhaps the most useful application would be in solar photovoltaic panels, which can lose up to 40 percent of their efficiency when dust and dirt accumulate on their surfaces. Glare-free, self-cleaning glass could dramatically improve the efficiency of solar panels, enabling them to capture much more light.
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