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How Solar Smart Glass is Protecting National Treasures

In both the arts and heritage sectors, conservation is a major driver. Curators and conservators are tasked with protecting some of our most precious artworks, rare artefacts, and valuable historical specimens.

In many cases however, when these treasures are on display, they are subject to huge risk in the form of light exposure. Solar Smart Glass provides a solution, complete with variable dimming functionality – perfect for gallery, museum, and exhibition spaces.

Light is the enemy.

Unfortunately, light can cause damage to collections. Depending on the type of light, the length of exposure and the natural resistance of the object itself, light can cause serious damage to historical objects and valuable artworks. Not only will it cause fading; overexposure can also cause weakening, discolouration, yellowing and embrittlement.

Little wonder then that those tasked with designing environments to house and protect these special objects require innovative technology to combat the damaging effects of light.

Solar Smart Glass presents just a solution, consistently blocking up 99.9% of UV light. Furthermore, this innovative glass features an inner layer of suspended particles which can be aligned when supplied with a small electrical current.

With this technology in place, glass can be manually or automatically ‘tuned’ to precisely control the amount of light, glare and heat that passes through. Ultimately protecting the fragile documents or beautiful paintings contained within.

Protecting precious artefacts

Museums depend on appropriate lighting to help visitors see the interesting objects on show. In the museum setting however, light can damage artefacts, even at low levels, and the effects are cumulative.

To reduce light damage, curators are faced with three basic options to protect their collection:

  1. Reduce the amount of light or the light intensity
  2. Reduce the time an object is exposed
  3. Eliminate unnecessary invisible radiation

One way to achieve this goal without restricting viewing time is to construct a purpose-built display cabinet, such as those designed and built by ArtRatio.

As an example, ArtRatio was recently commissioned by a private collector to build a 2m-long steel table, fitted out with suspended particle device (SPD) glass from Smartglass International to exhibit original works by Sir Isaac Newton.

The cabinet limits damage from light exposure by activating the Solar Smart Glass into a transparent state (and switching on internal LEDs) only when someone is present.

When no-one is present, the ArtRatio smart glass table automatically switches to its opaque state, blocking over 99.5% of visible light and 50% of infrared. This reduces fluctuations in temperature and humidity, mitigates the risk of static electricity build-up, and reduces colour fading and structural damage due to light exposure – providing a futuristic way to protect delicate objects from times long gone.

ArtRatio case with Smartglass-supplied solar glass, innovative options to combat light exposure. 'On' position

ArtRatio case with Smartglass-supplied solar glass, 'off' position, innovative options to combat light exposure

Designing exciting gallery spaces

Art galleries house all manner of artworks, from oil paintings to 3D installations, all of which they must display and preserve. In addition to this, galleries are often some of our most exciting architectural spaces, full of beautiful lines and plenty of light.

Switchable Solar Smart Glass can help to achieve these grand designs without compromising the safety of the artworks housed within. This technology provides a voltage-driven, reversible, and variable change in glass transmittance, for the ultimate in privacy, security, and UV protection.

Available in a toughened low iron design as standard, architects can also choose heat strengthened, fire-rated, or curved glass to create inspiring gallery spaces that also block harmful light.

Not only that, because Solar Smart Glass can be adjusted to control the amount of light and heat that passes through the glass surface, it can also be used to standardise internal temperatures and reduce energy costs. During summer months, for example, the glass can be ‘tuned’ to reduce the amount of heat entering the building, reducing the need for air conditioning.

And with protective Solar Smart Glass in place, gallery owners can create a welcoming, well-lit space, safe in the knowledge that their collection is protected from light and heat issues.

Safeguarding unique historical spaces

Many of the most exciting historical treasures combine both art and architecture to create unique historical spaces that are difficult to preserve and protect. Here Solar Smart Glass offers a discrete, protective solution.

University of Edinburgh’s historic McEwan Hall provides the perfect example. This prestigious refurbishment project features made-to-order panels utilising suspended particle device (SPD) film manufactured by Smartglass International.

Situated in the heart of Edinburgh, the hall features a D-shaped design with mural decorations by William Palin, which were completed in 1897.

To protect these beautiful paintings, Smartglass International’s Solar Smart Glass was retro-fitted within each of the 13 circular oculi windows. Installed more than 100ft from the ground, each window required a bespoke solar switchable panel measuring more than 2m in diameter.

With this custom solution in place, Solar Smart Glass is helping to increase the functionality of the space by allowing instant, adjustable control over the amount of light entering the hall. Not to mention preserving the valuable and distinctive murals contained within for many more years to come.

Protecting arts and heritage environments

Suitable for use in all kinds of environments, Solar Smart Glass can be used to protect heritage environments without impacting architectural ambitions.

For optimum flexibility, Smartglass International offers a hands-on service and professional advice to overcome any challenges and to ensure that each installation is tailored to the specific requirements of the end user.

To find out more about Solar Smart Glass and its potential in arts and heritage projects, contact Smartglass International for expert advice and a quote.

Download Smartglass Brochure

Discover the possibilities of switchable smart glass to create multi-functional
spaces that adapt to users’ needs at the flick of a switch.

Download Smartglass Brochure

Discover the possibilities of switchable smart glass to create multi-functional spaces that adapt to users' needs at the flick of a switch


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