Ah, steamed-up glass. Something that is simply infuriating to everyone – the windshield steaming up leaving us a complete hazard on the road, the complete inability to wear a face mask and glasses, useless windows for a good portion of the year – has never changed since the development of glasses, no matter how hard scientists try.
Now, though, new research may have the answer in the form of a gold nanolayer placed directly onto the glasses that prevents condensation from building up on the surface. The result is glass that cannot get fogged up under any circumstances.
The researchers state that the nanolayer can even be produced using standard manufacturing techniques, so glasses companies wouldn’t even need any special and expensive machines to start adding it to their products.
While it is gold, the amount of gold used is extremely, extremely small – when they say nanolayer, they mean just 10 nanometers thick, which is around 1,600 times thinner than aluminum foil. It would be so tiny that it shouldn’t add much to the price of materials, though companies would surely charge a premium.
So, how does it work? Most efforts up until now have tried using hydrophobic and hydrophilic coatings, but this requires constant upkeep. Instead, the gold nanolayer absorbs infrared radiation from the surroundings, heating the glasses up to 8°C (46°F) and preventing condensation from even starting.
Compared to normal glasses, the team saw a four-time improvement on fogging prevention and a three-time improvement on fog removal, leaving the glasses nice and transparent, which is quite helpful for seeing.
It sounds like a nightmare for scratches, as just a small bit of wear and tear would annihilate a 10-nanometer-thick layer of gold, but the researchers managed to sandwich the gold between titanium oxide to protect it. These layers also stop the heat from reaching you, meaning summer won’t be a sweaty affair.
The team has applied for a patent and is looking at alternatives to gold, so it remains to be seen whether this is something that could see widespread use. But with low costs and easy manufacturing, it certainly seems like the idea could be a huge hit.
The study was published in Nature Nanotechnology.