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Researchers Develop New ‘Super Window’

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have developed a new type of triple glazing for windows that is about the same thickness and weight as a standard low-e double-glazed window but comes with twice the insulating value.

In a news release, the U.S. Department of Energy laboratory said the breakthrough is made possible by the availability of extremely thin glass for the flat screen television industry. The glass, only 0.7 mm (less than 1/32 inch) thick, is used for the center pane in the triple-glazed assembly. Krypton gas replaces the argon typically used in double-glazed units.

High-performance triple-glazed windows, such as those used in Passive House buildings, are readily available today. But they are thicker and heavier than standard double-glazed units and many builders order them from Europe, extending construction schedules or forcing builders to plan carefully. Because the glass in these new "thin triple super windows" is so thin, the assembly delivers high R-value without a redesigned window sash or frame.

The windows have a center-of-glass R-value of between R-8 and R-10, about twice that of the best low-e double-glazed windows currently on the market, the lab said.

The lab has built prototypes and is working with two manufacturers to build and test prototypes that would be suitable for large-scale production.

The press release noted that the laboratory's work on high-performance windows dates to the oil crisis of the 1970s when it pioneered the development of low-e coatings. Charlie Curcija, one of the LBNL researchers, said the super-window might have come along sooner had large sheets of very thin glass been available.

“The thin glass is 0.7 mm thick,” he said. “Twenty years ago we couldn’t find any companies that could make thin glass sheets in volume. Now the flat screen TV industry has pushed the glass industry to create precisely the glass we need for windows, and at a price the window market can afford.”