Vacuum glass

The pace of development of window industry can be compared in rate with the pace of development of such modern branches of our everyday life, as computers and means of communication. Modern windows, alongside with high aesthetic, ergonomic and architectural requirements, must perform one very important function, that is − to save energy in our homes. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the total energy losses through windows in residential and industrial sectors cost American consumers USD 25 billion a year. In hot countries (India, countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Australia, etc.) these losses are even more, but have the opposite sign — coolness created by air-conditioners should be kept in premises. These official data served as a great economic motivation for the development of energy-efficient glazing systems for buildings.

A common misunderstanding is an anecdotal evidence that ordinary double-glass units contain vacuum. This is not so. Ordinary double-glass units are filled with dry atmospheric air. They are really "insulating", "isolating", but have no vacuum. To improve the thermal insulation, the internal space of a double-glass unit can be filled with inert gases (argon, krypton, xenon or mixtures thereof) with smaller values of thermal conductivity and larger values of viscosity compared with air. Losses due to radiant heat exchange can also be reduced by using glasses with special low-emission coating on one or both inner surfaces of the unit glasses.

The use of vacuum as a thermal insulator is not a new concept. It was described in the patents even in the nineteenth century. As for the double-glass units, vacuum application was designed to eliminate heat loss due to heat conductivity and convection in the gas layer between the glass sheets. Currently, persistent searching of the optimal production technology of vacuum double-glass units continues in the world, for example, within the framework of the European Union project titled "Production technology of highly-insulating vacuum glazing", other initiative and investment projects. All of this is a real evidence of good prospects for the application of vacuum double-glass units as a means of energy-efficient glazing of buildings.

High durability (at least 20 years) and good heat insulating properties are obtained already at the thickness of the vacuum gap of 0.05–0.1 mm (the gap in the known technologies is created by using special filling pads, which are glass beads, thin plates of stainless steel or ceramic inserts, fixed with a spacing of 20−40 mm). Such pads allow the glass unit to withstand enormous compressive strength of atmospheric air, which is approximately equal to 10 tons per square meter of glass surface.

In the proposed string-designed unit, vacuum gaps reach the thickness of 1–2 mm (this technology is one of the SkyWay know-how). A large vacuum gap, obtained with a minimum number of "bridges of cold", will significantly increase the service life (increased vacuum volume degasifies longer) and will further improve the insulating properties of the vacuum double-glass unit without increasing its cost.

When building a greenhouse or a winter garden with vacuum glass units in a cold climate, energy expenses for heating will be decreased by 90%. Solar power stations with vacuum glass units will heat water not to 60°C, but to 90°C, that is, they are transferred from installations for hot water supply to the category of installations for building heating. New technologies give scope for the imagination of architects and builders. Imagine a normal warm house with brick walls of 1.5 meter thickness and the same warm house with a wall thickness of 15–20 mm, made of vacuum double-glass units. Or — a 100-storeyed skyscraper in Sydney (moreover, with a high-rise track of "SkyWay metro"), with power consumption for air conditioning in summer and for heating in winter by several times less than for a traditional skyscraper.

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