A Clear View (2001)
The maze of tiny cracks that develops in plane windows is irritating for passengers and expensive to fix. Now there’s a solution.
Peering through a plane window to see the land or sea, many kilometres below, is a treat for air passengers. But if the window is cracked, it’s not only annoying it’s a bit disconcerting. It’s not unsafe. It just feels that way.
“It doesn’t affect the safety at all because those cracks are mostly located at the very outer most layer of the plastic.”
The cracks are caused by the moisture in the plastic being sucked out at high speed and high altitudes. Every 18 months to two years, the windows need to be taken out of the plane and their surfaces ground. And eventually need to be replaced altogether. It’s an expensive exercise, so Dr. Hans Griesser of CSIRO devised a plasma coating to stop the moisture escaping.
“We have developed a protective coating which is applied onto the window and that coating is essentially a barrier against moisture coming in and out of the window.”
As planes take off and land, the enormous stress causes the windows to flex. Stringent testing has been undertaken to make sure the coating doesn’t pop off. So far in laboratory conditions, the coated windows have shown that they may last for fives years without showing signs of cracking. It will mean a savings of millions of dollars for the airline industry.
“It certainly is a big market. When you look at the number of aeroplanes that are flying around, especially the long distances aeroplanes, there are literally thousands of windows being polished every month and stuck back on the aeroplanes.”