2011 Mercedes-Benz SLK to include Research Frontiers' light-control glass in sunroof

Feb. 11, 2011
Daimler AG has selected Research Frontiers' suspended-particle-device (SPD) light-control technology for one of its latest Mercedes-Benz features.

Sindelfingen, Germany and Woodbury, NY--Daimler AG has selected Research Frontiers' suspended-particle-device (SPD) light-control technology for one of its latest Mercedes-Benz features: the "magic sky control" panoramic glass roof, which allows passengers to change the tint of their car roof from dark to clear with the press of a button. The first Mercedes-Benz vehicle model to offer this option will be the new Mercedes-Benz SLK, which debuted on January 29, 2011.

Almost opaque to almost transparent

Nanoparticles suspended in a film manufactured by Hitachi Chemical Company under license from Research Frontiers allow users to control the tint from between very dark (blocking more than 99.5% of visible light) to about twice as clear as an ordinary sunroof. The Mercedes-Benz SLK will be the first large-scale series production vehicle to use Research Frontiers' light-control technology.

Mercedes-Benz put the sunroof through rigorous durability and performance testing in some of the most extreme conditions on earth. This included testing in the cold of Scandinavia (with temperatures below -22ºF/-30ºC) and the desert heat of Death Valley, California (with temperatures exceeding 122ºF/50ºC).

Test data published by Mercedes-Benz shows the ability of the roof to reduce sun exposure to 1/20th of direct exposure levels (from over 1,000 W/square meter to less than 50 W/square meter). When compared to conventional automotive glass, Mercedes-Benz reported that the use of SPD-SmartGlass significantly reduces the temperature inside the vehicle by up to 18ºF/10ºC.

The Research Frontiers licensees involved with the production of the sunroof for the SLK include Hitachi Chemical, which manufactures the SPD-Smart light-control film in Japan and has recently announced its capacity to manufacture 4.3 million square feet of SPD film per year. Automotive glass companies Nippon Sheet Glass in Japan and Pilkington in the UK and Germany then process and laminate Hitachi's SPD film into the glass for the sunroof. SPD Control Systems and Research Frontiers have jointly licensed intellectual property to Daimler AG regarding the electronics to control the SPD-SmartGlass in the Mercedes-Benz SLK and other vehicles.

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About the Author

John Wallace | Senior Technical Editor (1998-2022)

John Wallace was with Laser Focus World for nearly 25 years, retiring in late June 2022. He obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Rutgers University and a master's in optical engineering at the University of Rochester. Before becoming an editor, John worked as an engineer at RCA, Exxon, Eastman Kodak, and GCA Corporation.

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