Researchers at 3D Armor Systems Inc. in Reno thought they had a pretty slick way to develop camouflage for military applications.
But on second thought, they think the technology may have a far wider application in energy-saving smart windows that can automatically control the amount of heat and light that enters a building.
Now the company needs to raise some money venture capitalists are nibbling to create prototypes and get feedback from the building industry.
3D Armor Systems was launched by Ky Good and Larry Udell in 2006 to develop lightweight armor systems with substantial camouflage capabilities.
The key to the camouflage is electrowetting technology, which combines a low-voltage current, oil and water to create thin displays that some have dubbed "e-paper" even though they can change at video-like speeds.
That's a technology that 3D Armor Systems has worked to develop into a camouflage coating for armored vehicles or the underside of aircraft.
But a few months ago, Nelson Publicover, a professor of electrical and biomedical engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, who works with 3D Armor Systems, started thinking about the possibilities of the technology as a window coating.
His thought: Coat a window with film that uses electrowetting. Include a unit that controls either the film on the individual window or communicates with a central controller for the entire building.
On hot summer days, the film can gradually change through the day to reduce the amount of heat that comes through the glass, keeping a room at a constant temperature. On winter afternoons, when the winter sun is low in the sky, the film can darken to reduce glare. At night, the film can dim instantly to an opaque color.
In presentations to investors, executives of 3D Armor Systems say they hope to develop the film at a cost of $15 a square foot. By their analysis, that allows for a three-year payback.
And the company believes the film can be installed on existing windows or incorporated into new double-pane windows.
Good, who's chairman of the company, says 3D Armor Systems probably will need to raise about $10 million to get the break-even point.
In its current round of financing, it's looking to raise $3 million to refine the technology and test it.
He says the company has already has found a manufacturer that appears capable of meeting the company's needs.