SBIR Phase II: Ambient-Pressure Plasma Degassing for Low Cost Vacuum Glass

Period of Performance: 05/01/2016 - 04/30/2018

$724K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

V-Glass LLC
W265N3011 Peterson Drive Array
Pewaukee, WI 53072
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project is in significantly reducing global carbon emissions using vacuum insulating glass. Vacuum glass is like a flat and transparent thermos bottle for windows. Vacuum glass has three times less heat loss than triple pane glass but costs no more to manufacture. This disruptive value proposition will drive rapid market penetration, regardless of energy price, and without the need for government subsidy. This project will produce vacuum insulating glass that will enable R-10 windows, consistent with the goals and schedule of the DOE Windows Roadmap. Immediate benefits include improved occupant comfort and reduced heating bills without thermostat setback. Furthermore, vacuum windows will be condensation-free and fog-free forever. The potential impact is huge. Buildings represent 40% of total U.S. carbon emissions. Near-universal use could reduce total U.S. energy use by 3% (about 3 quadrillion BTU/year), while adding no cost to building infrastructure. Germany, Japan, Australia, China, and Russia have vacuum glass development programs; a successful development under this project will ensure that the U.S. stays at the scientific and technological forefront of this technology, and participates in a large and growing market. This project will develop the use of plasma degassing to achieve a vacuum life beyond 20 years, a condition for private investment. Without adequate degassing, moisture attached to internal surfaces is trapped at the time of seal-off. Trapped moisture molecules will later outgas, causing vacuum decay. Traditional high-temperature bakeout is too costly for affordable vacuum glass. Bakeout takes hours, but plasma degassing takes minutes. A German vacuum glass development effort tried plasma degassing under vacuum, which is inefficient. In contrast, this project will use atmospheric pressure plasma degassing, which is both faster and cheaper. Building on lessons learned during the Phase I project, a plasma treatment protocol will be developed to produce VIG panes as large as 25% of the average residential window size. Working in parallel, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will work to optimize the insulating performance of the design to enable an R-10 window for the DOE Windows Roadmap. Thereafter, an integrated pilot line will be assembled, able to produce vacuum glass units suitable for meaningful retrofit projects. Finally, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will conduct accelerated life testing. Independent life data, combined with a successful operating pilot line, will help secure private investment for commercialization.