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Erika Owen

When you think about all of the innovations that have been introduced into the art of perfecting the airplane cabin, there's one thing that's flown under the radar: that iconic round window. The double-pane pressure system is interesting (ever wonder why there's a tiny hole in your window?), but the pull-down shade design hasn't changed since, well, the first commercial airplane was introduced over a hundred years ago—until now. 

Vision Systems, a French company focused on technology and research, has come up with an airplane window that detects an increase in light and tints all by itself. Simply put, the design uses microscopic particles to help allow and filter light through the panes. A write-up on Wired does a great job digging into the job of those particles:

 Those particles are contained in a film sandwiched between layers of polycarbonate or glass. When voltage is applied to the film, the particles align to let light through. Shut off the power and the particles fall into 'disarray' and, the company claims, block more than 99 percent of visible light. Adjusting the voltage changes the opacity of the window.

There are perks for more than just passengers looking for seamless light blocking. Since there is no requirement for those outdated shades, flight attendants could strike "shutting all airplane window shades" from their daily to-do list. Airlines could also save a bit of cash on air conditioning costs—the new design is said to lower cabin temperatures by up t0 18 degrees Fahrenheit. The real question: will it help tone down in-flight skin damage?

Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.

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