FRANCE, Lyon. Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal (PDLC) glass, otherwise known as “switchable” glass, has been available for some years. The technology relies on a PDLC film sandwiched between conductive interlayers and two panes of glass. When an electric current is passed through the film, the liquid crystals line up, changing the glass from opaque to clear, and vice-versa. The limitation is that there are just two shades: clear or opaque.
At METS, Lyon-based Vision Systems exhibited a flagship product called Nuance in conjunction with ProCurve Glass that utilises SPD (Suspended Particle Device) technology, which differs from PDLC insofar as it can be "tuned" to precisely control the amount of light or glare passing through the windows, blocking UV light and associated heat and thus reducing the need for air conditioning. The licenced smart glass technology is already being used in the aviation and automotive industries, but it is relatively new to yachting. In fact, Vision Systems has applied its product on business jets and is collaborating with Silver Arrows Marine and an undisclosed superyacht shipyard.
“The merging of ProCurve Glass and Vision Systems' technical know-how led to the co-development of curved, dimmable windows that come to meet the growing needs of our customers for high performance solutions with specific features and characteristics," says Catherine Robin, marketing and business development senior vice-president of Vision Systems.
The SPD film can be laminated between two panes of glass of any size and shape, flat or curved, for interior or exterior use, and is available in different tints. Used singularly or in combination, it can vary in transparency from slightly opaque to full black-out (99 per cent) within five seconds. The electronic controls can be managed manually with a simple button, touch panel or smart phone/tablet, or sensors can be programmed to automatically switch the SPD on/off according to the light conditions. For aesthetic effect, silk and other translucent textiles can be integrated into the dimmable glass laminates.
Films can also be combined to provide a “multi-zone” effect with different degrees of shading, much like individual venetian blinds. Designed as an adaptive solution, Nuance increases comfort for both guests and the crew operating the yacht from the bridge by providing protection from bright, reflected sunlight and heat without obstructing the view. Taken to its logical conclusion, the dimmable window technology also does away with the need for mechanical sheers and blinds.