Nanowindow: Measuring Window Performance and Energy Production of a Nanofluid Filled Window
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Windows reduce heat loss and heat gain by resisting conduction, convection, and radiation using thermal breaks, low-emissivity films, and window gaps. Contrary to advancing these resistive qualities, this research introduced a highly conductive gap medium using Al2O3 nanoparticles dispersed in deionized water to enhance thermal conductivity. The solution harnessed the photothermal properties of Al2O3 nanofluids to trap, store, and transport thermally charged fluids to heat exchangers to preheat air and water, and to generate electricity forming a transparent generator—the Nanowindow. Seven Nanowindow prototypes with varying orders of air and fluid columns were fabricated and tested using distilled water (H2Owindows) to establish a baseline of performance. A solar simulator was built to avoid environmental radiant flux irregularities providing a uniform test condition averaging 750–850 W/m2, and resulted in an undefined spectral match, Class B spatial uniformity, and Class B temporal stability. All Nanowindows were tested in a calibrated hot box determined to have a ±4% degree of accuracy based on four laboratory samples establishing a framework to conduct U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) measurements. Four heat exchange experiments and standardized window performance metrics (U-factor, SHGC, and visible transmission) where conducted on seven H2Owindows. The top two H2Owindows were then tested using Al2O3 nanofluids. The highest performing Nanowindow improved total convective heat transfer rates using Al2O3 by 90% over water baseline, and 61% improvement in preheat water experiments. Nanowindows coupled with thermoelectric generators generated a rated voltage of 0.31VDC/0.075ADC per 12in2 Nanowindow, an improvement of 38% over baseline. Standardized window performance metrics confirmed Nanowindow U-factors ranging from 0.23 to 0.54, SHGC from 0.43 to 0.67, and visible transmittance coefficient (VT) ranging from 0.27 to 0.38. The concept of nature as model system thinking provided a theoretical framework for the research and proof of concept experiment. Ultimately, the experiment shifted window gaps from resisting energy to harnessing solar energy. The Nanowindow thus presents a unique opportunity to turn vast glass facades into transparent generators to offset energy demand, and reduce greenhouse gases.
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