Above: Switchable Glass in the "On" state appears clear (image by SmartGlass International).
Above: Switchable Glass in the "Off" or privacy state (image by SmartGlass International).
WHAT IS SWITCHABLE PRIVACY GLASS?
Switchable or smart glass partitions turn clear or transparent when switched on and opaque when off. These glass walls are essentially a film of liquid crystal sealed between two panes of glass to form one sheet of glass - similar to laminate glass panels. These glass panels require an electric current to turn clear and are usually controlled with a remote or a similar device.
HOW DO SWITCHABLE SMART GLASS PARTITIONS WORK?
When an electric current passes through the liquid crystal film, a glass panel appears transparent (this is because the molecules in the film align, letting light flow through). This is the "on" state. The film is in its "off" or privacy state when no current exists. A glass panel will appear opaque because the molecules in the film are randomly positioned, stopping light from flowing through (see images above).
PRIVACY AT THE FLICK OF A SWITCH
Switchable glass (often called privacy glass or smart glass) partitions have become popular in commercial spaces, offices, high-end apartments and homes. This is especially the case when occupants are looking for a more versatile solution that provides privacy and transparency at the same time. Switchable privacy glass does precisely that - it turns clear open spaces into concealed private areas at the flick of a switch. Plus, it has the "wow" factor if you want to impress clients!
Above: Use the arrows to see the switchable glass screen in privacy and transparent mode (images by SmartGlass International).
WHERE CAN SWITCHABLE GLASS BE USED?
Privacy glass partitioning is versatile and can be used as any other type of internal glass partition walls, including curved switchable glass partitions. Smart glass can be used in both residential and commercial buildings. As it can conveniently flick between transparent and opaque, it is ideal for:
Boardrooms and offices (offering privacy for sensitive meetings)
Hospital waiting areas, treatment rooms and operating theatres (helping eliminate the use of curtains which can play a role in the spread of germs in hospitals)
Exhibition display rooms
Hotel rooms (offering bathroom privacy without limiting the flow of light)
Homes and apartments (creating soft divisions between rooms)
Facades where interior spaces occasionally require privacy from the public (see example below)
Most types of glass doors (including doors on rails and hinged doors)
IS SWITCHABLE SMART GLASS EXPENSIVE?
Switchable privacy smart glass is considerably more costly than other clear glass partitions. This is mainly due to the cost of materials and manufacturing, including lamination complexities during production.
Risks of damage during transportation, carriage to the site and installation mean additional steps and extra care must be taken; this significantly increases costs. We recommend you buy from a quality switchable smart glass supplier such as SmartGlass International and use an approved glass partition installation team, like Prism Glass.
SmartGlass International are a market leader with the knowledge, experience and reputation in manufacturing switchable smart glass and currently supplies glass to over 35 countries across six continents. Prism Glass has extensive experience installing smart glass screens and is approved by SmartGlass International to install its products here in the UK.
Above: Curved privacy smart glass and doors used in an office exhibition room. Use the arrows to see the switchable glass screen in privacy and transparent mode.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE BUYING SWITCHABLE PRIVACY GLASS
A switchable privacy glass panel comprises an internal film of liquid crystal held between two laminated glass sheets. That means the film cannot go to the edges of the panel to allow the sheets to be bonded. There will always be a small clear border around the edges of the glass, which will remain clear even when the rest of the glass panel is opaque. Most of the time, the top and bottom edges of the glass can be hidden in the glazing track; the clear edges affect the verticle sides of the glass.
Another point to be aware of is that there will always be an element of haze or milkiness within the smart glass panels when in transparent mode. The "milkiness" (hazy white effect) is less visible when looking at a glass panel "straight on" and more "milky" when viewing the glass at an angle. Thus you may want to design your space accordingly and ensure that the smart Glass panel is mostly viewed "straight on"; and not viewed from the side while walking down a tight passageway, for example.
Electrical points are needed to connect the transformers to power the panels. Ideally, the transformers should be hidden in a ceiling cavity or similar. Cables must run from the panels to the transformers; these are usually hidden within the glazing track. However, this means you may not be able to use slim profiles and tracks.
INSTALLING SWITCHABLE GLASS PARTITIONS
Once you decide where you would like to use smart glass, go through the specifications and any questions you have with a reputable supplier or glass installation team. Following this, they should be able to provide you with a quote. As mentioned before, always request to see a sample of the glass to be installed before agreeing to proceed. You should also request a site survey (see more information about site surveys).
Look for a quality product when buying privacy glass partitions for offices or homes, and use an experienced glass installation team. At Prism Glass, we will be able to talk you through your glass installation project needs and the installation process and answer any questions or concerns you may have. We can supply SmartGlass International materials, an experienced glass installation team, and advise you of on-site preparation and any HSE concerns.
For examples of privacy smart glass projects, see:
If you have questions or want a free quote, please contact us by calling 0208 947 8428 (office hours are Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm).
Prism Glass Ltd are an approved fitter for SmartGlass International.