Serial entrepreneur Victor Rosenberg had a vision to invent a product that would drastically increase building efficiency and harness the power of the sun. Now ClearVue Technologies’ revolutionary smart window is taking Australia to the world, writes Gavin Dennett.
A background in the pharmaceutical and food industries is not the conventional path to success in the renewables space, but for Victor Rosenberg all it took was an inspirational idea to set him on a journey to inventing an innovative product that is set to revolutionise the clean energy industry.
Born in South Africa, Rosenberg (pictured above) is a serial entrepreneur who invented the concept of condiments as food pastes in tubes in 1980.
He has spent the past two decades living in Australia, and in 2011 he engaged his entrepreneurial spirit into conceptualising a multipurpose advanced smart window that harnesses the power of the sun and delivers enhanced building efficiency.
Despite no previous experience in the building and clean energy industries, his vision led to the formation of Perth-based company ClearVue Technologies.
After a decade of collaboration, research, testing and investment, ASX-listed ClearVue Technologies is taking on the world, with eager building integrated photovoltaics markets in the US and Europe awaiting.
“I’ve always been interested in nature, and my vision was to do something relating to energy and the environment,” Rosenberg tells EcoGeneration.
“I started focusing on how it would be best to use those two elements in a product that could work.
“Glass is a building material that is everywhere so I started focusing on that, working out what product could let in invisible light, but shut out UV and use infrared – the heat component of light – to somehow convert the waste product into power.
“With those principles, I went to ECU [Edith Cowan University] in Joondalup, Western Australia, and spoke about my philosophy. Everyone initially thought we were nuts, but we engaged physicists and optical engineers from the university, and by the first year we made a 2cm by 2cm sample to get some idea if it was possible.
“The next year, we made a bigger sample and it progressed until 2016 when we developed a 50cm by 50cm size which showed pretty good performance.”
At this point of the prototype journey, ClearVue was in need of capital so Rosenberg listed the company on the Australian Stock Exchange. An injection of $5 million allowed the company to expand into production, processes, quality control and upscaling.
“During the research and development, there were some disappointments along the way, but now we are in production and the products are all certified in the US and Europe,” he says.
“We are also looking to become certified in Singapore, which would give us access to Asia.”
Glass has been around for 5000 years with windows primarily utilised as building materials that light passes through. Rosenberg’s initial concept was to take that basic principle and expand its use in a way that had never been done before – energy efficient, energy producing windows with no visual distortion – investing plenty of his own funds along the way.
“Now that we’re in production, we are getting a lot of enquiries,” he says.
“In the development stage, there were some doubters but now we have a lot of information we’ve collected over the years. We built a greenhouse and the data coming out of that supersedes what we thought we’d get.
“For example, we are getting 50 per cent more power than we envisioned and the insulation properties are performing extremely well.
“The temperature inside the building reduces energy consumption for lighting, heating and cooling by up to 40 per cent, while at the same time producing power from the windows themselves.
“It has a double benefit as a building with our product has a reduced carbon footprint, and a payback of potentially less than a year.”
As the world moves towards a universal goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, if not sooner, global building standards are rapidly on the move. Not only do new standards apply to current and future builds, but hundreds of thousands of existing buildings will need to be retrofitted to comply.
This opens tremendous opportunities for ClearVue to capitalise on commercial properties seeking to become drastically more efficient.
“Our technology presents a paradigm shift in the way glass will be used in building construction, automobiles, agriculture and specialty products,” says Rosenberg.
“Glass will no longer just be a component of construction, but rather a renewable energy resource.
“Big companies are looking at how they can improve the environment in their policies, and our technology is part of the solution.
“If companies don’t look to upgrade their buildings and become more energy efficient, they will have shareholders re-evaluating their investments, and banks devaluing properties due to decreasing [energy] star ratings.
“We have big companies such as Lendlease talking to us because by 2030 they want to be carbon neutral. That’s a big statement as everyone else is aiming for 2050. They have to use products that will get them there, and we are one such product.
“The US is such a big market, with hundreds of billions of square metres of new buildings coming up and old buildings forced to retrofit to comply with new standards.
“In New York City, there are 50,000 buildings and they have to be retrofitted before 2030. New York has huge fines commencing in 2024 – US$175 per metric tonne of CO2 a building produces – which will run into billions of dollars per building. Owners are not going to waste their money on taxes and fines.”
Energy capabilities and efficiency through insulation are not the only benefits ClearVue’s technology brings to a building. The functional windows are aesthetically desirable and come in a range of shapes and sizes.
“You can see right through the glass, but it is impregnated with our active material that removes the infrared and UV from going through the window, diverting it to the edge of the glass, which is then converted to electricity that can be used in the building or stored in a battery,” says Rosenberg.
“Another big advantage of our autonomous technology is scalability, going as high as 3.5 metres so floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights are a possibility.
“The windows also have ventilation units fitted to bring fresh air into the building; have privacy glass and light control settings controlled by a phone app that can light up buildings at night and be used for displays and advertising; can be fitted with encased, adjustable blinds and security cameras that don’t depend on outside power; and come in different shapes such as triangles and octagons.
“A lot of people compare us to solar panels, but we are a functional smart window within a building. Solar sits on a roof and serves one purpose, whereas our product serves multiple purposes.
“Wherever you have glass, the product will find a home.”
In the next five years, the plan is for ClearVue to be a truly global company, with roots already established in Europe and the US. The company has 11 staff based in Perth, with two each in Europe and the US, including the recent appointment of Basil Karampelas as CEO in North America.
“We are Perth based, Perth researched and Perth designed,” says Rosenberg. “Unfortunately, we can’t make the product here, but we proudly are a Perth company.
“The manufacturing is done in China, but the aim is to licence assemblers in different jurisdictions around the world.
“I had a vision to make the world a healthier environment, and it is rewarding to now see it progress to something much bigger.”