Bioinspired thermochromic transparent hydrogel wood with advanced optical regulation abilities and mechanical properties for windows

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number117207
Journal / PublicationApplied Energy
Online published31 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


The huge heat loss/gain through windows is the cause of great energy consumption in buildings. In addition, the traditional fabrication method for glass causes many environmental problems. Recently, transparent wood has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional glass because of its high transmittance, strong mechanical properties, excellent thermal insulation ability and sustainability. In this study, inspired by jellyfish, a thermochromic transparent hydrogel wood that can smartly regulate solar irradiation is proposed as a smart window material by impregnating Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-polyacrylamide hydrogel into delignified wood. The novel thermochromic transparent hydrogel wood inherits the excellent thermochromic properties of PNIPAM and strong mechanical properties of wood, showing advanced optical regulation ability (i.e. Tlum = 82.7% and 39.8% at the cold and hot states & ΔTsol = 38.1%), low transition temperature (i.e. Tc = 22.9 °C), mechanically robust (i.e. σ = 11.6 MPa along the axial direction) and low thermal conductivity (i.e. K = 0.37 W m−1 K−1 along the perpendicular direction of the wood growth). A field test conducted in October in Hong Kong shows that thermochromic transparent hydrogel wood can reduce the indoor air temperature by 4.3 °C. Furthermore, a computational simulation for an office building proves that 2.6–10.2% energy could be saved by thermochromic transparent hydrogel wood in four different climate-zone cities. Besides, thanks to the flexibility, thermochromic transparent hydrogel wood can be easily fitted on existing windows, demonstrating the great potential for use in energy-efficient buildings.

Research Area(s)

  • Bionics, Energy-efficient buildings, Hydrogel, Smart windows, Thermochromism, Transparent woods

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