You might think that see-through fridges and interactive shop windows exist only in the movies, but Gauzy, an Israeli startup company, is turning science-fiction into reality. In their words Gauzy is creating the opportunity to “handle glass like never before.”
At the heart of their innovation is the technology of Liquid Crystal Controllers (LCC) that can control large films with minimal power and determine the amount of light allowed to pass through the glass. Gauzy, which on Monday announced it has recently raised $4 million, has already implemented its unique technology in a variety of fields ranging from the automotive industry and elevators, to marine vessels.
CEO Eyal Peso recounts how the company was conceived: “My kitchen front has a view of very nice, big trees, but the architect who renovated the building made the glass opaque… I want the glass sometimes to be opaque because I want my privacy, but most of the time I want them open to see the trees.”
He recognized that there must be a more satisfying solution than living in compromise or constantly opening and closing windows. Peso also came across what he described as a “very nice gimmick” in a New York clothing store. The store sports automated dressing rooms, with transparent glass that turns opaque when the customer enters the dressing room. Peso saw the potential in such products but reached the conclusion that the existing products “operated incorrectly from an electronic standpoint.”
After Peso and his co-founder and CTO Adrian Lofer set up a small-scale “garage style” lab to learn about the liquid crystal material, they started to develop liquid crystal (LC) sheets or films, the same substance as LCD (liquid crystal display) television screens. The chemical make-up of liquid crystal is such that it’s physical characteristics – whether light can pass through or not – can be altered in response to certain magnetic fields. Gauzy’s patent-pending Liquid Crystal Controllers are capable of controlling large films with low power consumption. They also allow the client to determine the amount of light passing through the glass aperture in a dimmable manner.
Injecting high-tech into low-tech
Peso posits that “the vision of Gauzy is to take high-tech and inject it into a low-tech environment.” He adds: Gauzi aims to transform raw products into smarter, interactive products, thus revolutionizing conservative industries, like the glass industry.”
Gauzy sells processed LC films cut to fit to glass processors and teaches them how to install the film in the raw glass. To date they have signed with one glass processing firm in Israel, two in Brazil, one in Australia and another in Romania.
In 2011 Gauzy was enlisted to install their liquid crystal technology into the glass walls of a visitors’ centre found in the biblical city of Shiloh in Israel, a national heritage site. The Quadra glazed glass walls project a video, and through varied levels of transparency embeds the archaeological site outside into the movie.
In March 2012, Gauzy also implemented its technology at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Herzliya, Israel. The glass bathroom walls in the suites are controlled to enable privacy or transparency, which promotes an open space design.
Gauzy has also “renovated” a timeworn elevator in the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem. The glass walls of the elevator are programmed to automatically become transparent on the 5th floor of the building, allowing for a spectacular view of the Western Wall. Until the 5th floor the wall remains opaque, concealing the elevator shaft.
Funding the venture
Peso disclosed that Gauzy recently raised an investment round of $4 million from the U.K. firm Sollange. This comes after the original seed investment from Eli Dahan, a well-known Israeli entrepreneur.
With the initial funds, Gauzy established a liquid crystal research lab and enlisted the help of a respected Italian researcher to further their R&D. Gauzy is currently looking into various new technologies like controlling liquid crystal without electricity; 3D foils that project a 3D image with no need for 3D glasses, and controlling infra-red heating light in order to save energy on cooling systems.
Psychology of the future
Gauzy believes that our future surroundings will become smarter and more interactive. Peso hopes that new technologies “will change the way we look at space.” We will come to realise that “space can be dynamic,” he says.