This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

October 30, 2002

Automotive Companies Pave Way for LEDs and "Smart" Windows

Automotive accessories suppliers are often the first to adopt new technologies-solar-powered fans for sunroofs, for instance, are now available for some Audi and Mercedes-Benz models. And Gentex Corporation provided another example when it began shipping automatically dimming rearview mirrors, including white-light LED map lights, in late August. Built with light emitting diodes (LEDs), the lights use only 0.6 watts each, compared to standard 4.25-watt lamps that typically require venting and bulky optics. The mirrors dim themselves using electrochromic glass, which becomes dark when a current is applied to it. But that technology is old hat to Gentex-they've been selling self-dimming mirrors since 1987. See the Gentex press releases.

The real question for these technologies, at least for energy wonks, is when will they be available in products that affect the average American's energy use? The answer is, very soon: Recent news suggests that both white-light LEDs and "smart" electrochromic windows are moving ahead in a wider range of commercial products. Universal Display Corporation, for instance, announced in August that it had received two DOE contracts for $100,000 each in order to develop its high-efficiency, organic LED technologies for use as general sources of white light. And in the past month, three companies emerged as likely commercial sources of "smart" windows. SPD Systems, American Glass Products Group, and Cricursa Cristales Curvados S.A. all bought non-exclusive licenses for smart window technology from Research Frontiers Incorporated. The technology allows users to manually or automatically adjust the amount of light coming through the window. The companies are using the windows for skylights, home windows, appliances, and, of course, in automobiles. See the press releases from Universal Display and Research Frontiers.