AUSTIN (KXAN) — Controlling the thermostat in our homes and cars is a luxury many of us take for granted every day. But what if your windows could help cut the work in half? Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are working to make that a reality through a concept called “smart windows.”

This new low-temperature process creates a coating of smart material on plastic, which in return, is cheaper and easier to apply to than glass.

Associate Professor at UT, Dr. Delia Milliron, explains, “the idea is to have a window that can dynamically control the flux of heat and light coming into the building, so as the weather changes or your need for light, for your task at hand evolves over the day over the seasons, you can manage those energy loads and make the building more comfortable.”

With these smart windows, the material changes between clear and dark, controlling how much heat goes through. Since energy usage would be cut down, so would your long term costs in energy.

“You can save a lot on energy because if you limit how much heat comes into the building in the first place, you don’t need as much air conditioning, and the opposite is true in the winter, that you can harness solar heating effectively so you don’t need to spend as much on heating,” Dr. Milliron explains.

Dr. Milliron and her team have been working on this type of technology for the last five or six years. She says, “the development started in my research group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and then followed me here. So I moved a number of post-docs and students with me when I came to UT three years ago and they were able to continue carrying out this work. And then joined forces with some new collaborators and students here at UT.”

This state of the art smart window is still in its early stages, on a laboratory scale. However, the ultimate goal to have this new technology widely manufactured so that it can eventually be installed in businesses, homes, or even your vehicle. Which is why Dr. Milliron and her team plan to transition this concept for commercial development over the next several years.

Dr. Milliron says, “The general idea is just to have a more intimate connection with the outdoor environment but to be able to control that so that it’s comfortable for us, all the benefits of being inside.

You can read more about this type of technology on UT’s website.