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Michael Strand
December 9, 2022

Forbes ’30 Under 30′ honoree views window tint tech through sustainability lens

Written By: Jason Daley

During his undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michael Strand (BS MS&E ’15) made all sorts of connections with faculty, fellow students and labmates.

Perhaps the most important connection, however, was with a building.

Strand, a materials science and engineering major, would often study inside the Discovery Building across from the engineering campus. The building is a LEED Gold-certified structure, meaning it meets stringent requirements for sustainability. “I just became absolutely fascinated with energy efficiency and all the cool LEED-certified buildings being put on campus,” says Strand, who grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota.

After graduation, Strand went to Stanford University for graduate school, planning on studying solar cells as a way to fight climate change. However, he came across a research project on dynamic windows, or windows that dim or go completely opaque with the flip of a switch. He realized the technology could have a major impact on the climate by reducing energy use in homes and large office buildings. “I’d never seen or even heard of a ‘smart’ window,” he says. “But I just thought it was the coolest thing. When I saw it, I felt an immediate connection with the cool sustainable architecture I’d admired in Madison.”

After four years of working with Professor Michael McGehee to develop a new technology for dynamic windows, Strand and his colleague Tyler Hernandez co-founded Tynt Technologies. The Tynt team developed a technique called reversible metal electrodeposition, in which they electroplate metal ions onto glass. When the metal is in its ion form, it’s transparent. But when voltage runs through it, the ions turn into a plated metal film that tints the window. The amount of metal plated can be controlled, allowing the user to adjust the amount of light and heat coming through the glass from completely clear to full blackout dark.

Current commercially available dynamic windows are never completely opaque and often have an eerie blue color. The Tynt windows, however, can be completely dark, giving them a wider range of applications. “The long-term goal is to get this integrated into any glass surface you can imagine,” says Strand, whose revolutionary technology prompted Forbes to name him and Hernandez to its “30 Under 30 in energy” list in 2022. “So we are looking at skylights and residential windows, but we hope to expand to the commercial space, automobile windshields and moonroofs, and even smaller markets like sunglasses and ski goggles.”

Currently, the Boulder, Colorado-based business has received $11 million in seed money and has 22 employees, most of them researchers working on ways to scale up the technology and make it more durable. Strand says he expects the company will begin field-testing windows in about a year and hopes to have products available to the public in 2025. According to company estimates, wide adoption of the dynamic windows could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2 gigatons a year, more than the annual emissions from automobiles in the United States.

Strand says that his experiences at UW-Madison were an important part of his journey, and he wants to pass along some of the lessons he’s learned to current and future students. “I failed my first chemistry exam at Wisconsin,” he says. “It was pretty devastating. But Wisconsin has a culture of inclusion and I was always met with the guidance and support I needed to succeed. I was able to go right to the professor and my TA and talk through a plan to turn things around. And I ended up getting a PhD in a chemistry-heavy field. I think as long as you find meaning in your work, you can push past self-doubt and accomplish incredible things.”