Banerjee and his research team recently pioneered an innovative window coating that blocks heat when hot and allows it to enter when cold.
Sarbajit Banerjee has done India proud. An associate professor at the University of Buffalo, a state university of New York, Banerjee finds his name in the growing list of Indian-Americansand NRIs based in the US that have made a name for themselves and for the community in the ‘land of opportunities’.
Banerjee and his research team recently pioneered an innovative window coating that blocks heat when hot and allows it to enter when cold. This has become a breakthrough innovation in the fight against global warming.
The Kolkata-born spent some years at St. Stephen’s in New Delhi, before moving to New York at the age of 21 for his doctoral and postdoctoral studies at Stony Brook University and Columbia University. He was recruited to the University at Buffalo in 2007 to further his work as a solid-state chemist and materials scientist. It was here that Banerjee focused his research on materials, which undergo phase transitions.
“These materials are chameleon-like, since some sort of external stimulus drives the materials to switch from one structure to another. The most common example of a phase transition is when heat causes melting ice to undergo a transition from a solid to a liquid,” says Banerjee.
After exploring phase transitions in a variety of different materials, Banerjee’s team became particularly intrigued with the compound vanadium oxide because of its unique interaction with radiated heat.
“Through research, we discovered that high temperatures caused the compound’s crystalline structure to change from one that is transparent to heat to one that actually reflects it. When formed as thin nanowires, the vanadium oxide could be directly applied as a coating on glass. That’s how this smart window – capable of reflecting heat at high temperatures instead of allowing it to pass through the glass – got invented. Conversely, in colder temperatures, the coating remains transparent and allows both light and heat through to warm a building’s interior,” adds Banerjee, who was named as one of the world’s top innovators under the age of 35 by MIT Technology Review in 2012.