Love them or loathe them, it looks like electronically dimmable windows are here to stay in commercial aviation. The business behind the infamous dimmable windows on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners has just announced that Airbus will be offering electronically dimmable windows on its aircraft too.
The new window option for Airbus customers was announced at CES 2020
The world’s leading supplier of electronically dimmable windows (EDWs) is the Michigan based Gentex. Together with research partner PPG Aerospace and Boeing, they are behind those extra-large EDWs you can adjust (or more annoyingly, flight attendants can adjust) on the Dreamliners.
Yesterday, at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Gentex announced Airbus would be offering the latest generation of EDWs on its planes. The news was reported in Yahoo Finance who note that further information will be provided in the 2020 spring.
EDWs ostensibly have several benefits. Firstly, they allow passengers to darken their windows while still allowing them to see outside. Secondly, EDWs eliminates the need for traditional window shades, removing some weight from the aircraft. Finally, they have an inbuilt heat control solution that blocks infrared energy from entering the cabin and reducing the need for air conditioning.
And while EDWs make sense on so many levels, not all passengers are fans. One problem is not so much the technology as the propensity of some airline crews to dim all cabin windows as a matter of course on long haul flights (I’m looking at you Japan Airlines), overriding individual passenger preferences.
The updated EDWs to be made available to Airbus customers have several improvements over the older EDWs seen on the Dreamliners. Firstly, the Airbus EDWs will darken twice as fast and up to 100 times darker than the older EDWs (bad news for lovers of natural light in-flight). Secondly, the new EDWs will be an all-in-one single replaceable unit which makes installation and maintenance simpler. Finally, the new EDWs will boast a longer-lasting, scratch-resistant cover.
How do electronically dimmable windows work?
Like most bright ideas, the science behind the EDW’s isn’t that complex. Well, it’s probably not that simple but when you read how it works, you might wonder why it wasn’t done earlier.
So how do EDWs work? EDWs have a proprietary electrochromic gel encapsulated between two thin glass panels. The gel darkens or lightens in response to electricity. When a low voltage electric current passes through the conductive gel it results in an electrochemical reaction in the gel, causing it to darken. When the electric current is turned off, the gel goes back to its natural, clear state, allowing you to see outside.
Gentex’s CEO, Steve Downing told Yahoo;
“We worked together with Airbus to integrate the latest dimmable window technology while further enhancing it with an additional specialty coating.
“The windows benefit aircraft operators and passengers alike, which ultimately enhances the user experience for everyone on board.”
While it seems like such a simple idea, clearly it’s not that simple or EDWs would have been around for a long time. But what is clear now is that Gentex is onto a winner. The rise of EDWs on passenger aircraft is inevitable, like it or not. The business has the early mover advantage and, having patented the electrochromic gel, it is in the box seat moving into the next decade.
Simple Flying reached out to Gentex about their new deal with Airbus but haven’t heard back from them before publication.
Electronically dimming windows … are you a fan? Post a comment and let us know.