ABT invents things - 'without innovations, we'd die'

Updated: 2011-09-28 07:54

By Zhang Zhao (China Daily)

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"Well, actually, we're not just a glass maker," explained Zhao Qin, the general manager of a Beijing company that produces a special, patented switchable, transparent glass (STG), also known as smart glass.

What Zhao actually meant by "glass" was the stuff you see every day, the stuff you look through, ordinary glass.

What his company, the Beijing All Brilliant Technology Co Ltd (ABT) makes is a type of glass that can alter light transmission with the flick of an electrical switch. This allows the glass to function as a curtain, that is, a person can control the amount of light and heat that passing through a room.

The core technology, and the manufacturing, of switchable, transparent film (STF) is the property of just four companies, only one of which, ABT, is in China.

STF is a flexible, plastic film containing droplets of liquid crystal that can be placed between two layers of glass. When the power supply is switched off, the liquid crystals are randomly scattered and spread light in all directions, making the glass translucent. But when the power is on, the crystals line up in less than 0.1 second to make the film transparent.

ABT set up China's first STF production line in 2004 and has been giving its patent protection a lot of attention. It established an intellectual property rights office in 2008 to manage its technical data, and applying for patents.

It has applied for 35 patents since 2008, half of them for its inventions.

More than 80 companies in China now produce smart glass, but ABT uses its own inventions, and according to Zhao, "without innovations", they "would die".

The first-generation of STG had a width of only 90 centimeters, while the fourth-generation can be as wide as 180 cm, and every advance is the result of optoelectronics improvements that help cut costs. The latest product consumes only 3 watts of electricity per square meter meaning, less than 0.1 kilowatt hour a day.

The company's products account for more than 60 percent of the Chinese market, and are sold in more than 30 other countries. It had orders worth nearly 20 million yuan ($3.1 million) overseas over the last two years and its smart glass has been used in 16 five-star hotels on the mainland and seven, overseas.

Nevertheless, Zhao has even more ambitious plans: to put his glass in every household. So, they are looking for a bigger factory to expand production.

China Daily

(China Daily 09/28/2011 page17)