Materials with switchable radiometric properties: Could they become the perfect greenhouse cover?

Esteban Baeza*, Silke Hemming, Cecilia Stanghellini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Greenhouses shelter the crop from unfavourable environmental conditions and the covering largely contributes to creating beneficial growing conditions inside. There is no perfect greenhouse cover for all combinations of crop and climatic regions. Usually a greenhouse cover has permanent optical properties determining the amount of solar radiation entering the greenhouse. Consequently during crop growth, the amount and quality (spectrum, direct/diffuse ratio) of the solar radiation is not ideal for the crop. Growers try to compensate for this by using different additional techniques such as temporary coatings, screens (mobile or fixed, etc.) and heating or cooling. New materials are currently being developed, whose optical properties can be (almost) instantaneously changed (materials with switchable properties). This will allow growers to gain real-time control on the quantity and quality of the light entering the greenhouse to match crop requirement. The present study uses advanced simulation models to predict the potential of covers with switchable properties to improve tomato yield and use of resources in different climatic regions (mild winter and tropical) and with different greenhouse types (artisan and industrial type). Results indicate that covers with switchable properties have advantages over permanent properties for most combinations of filter type/location. Only in very extreme tropical climates will covering materials with permanent filter properties have advantages. Furthermore, simulations models can play a major role in optimising the switchable filter design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-173
Number of pages17
JournalBiosystems Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Far infrared
  • Greenhouse climate
  • Modelling
  • Near infrared
  • Photosynthetic active radiation
  • Smart materials


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