The smart windows were developed by University College London (UCL) with support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Project leader, UCL's Dr Ioannis Papakonstantinou explained: "This is the first time that a nanostructure has been combined with a thermochromic coating.
"The bio-inspired nanostructure amplifies the thermochromics properties of the coating and the net result is a self-cleaning, highly performing smart window."
The UCL team calculate that the windows could result in a reduction in heating bills of up to 40%, with the precise amount in any particular case depending on the exact latitude of the building where they are incorporated. Windows made of the ground-breaking glass could be especially well-suited to use in high-rise office buildings.
Papakonstantinou continued: "It's currently estimated that, because of the obvious difficulties involved, the cost of cleaning a skyscraper's windows in its first five years is the same as the original cost of installing them.
"Our glass could drastically cut this expenditure, quite apart from the appeal of lower energy bills and improved occupant productivity thanks to less glare. As the trend in architecture continues towards the inclusion of more glass, it's vital that windows are as low-maintenance as possible."
Discussions are now under way with UK glass manufacturers with a view to driving this new window concept towards commercialisation. The key is to develop ways of scaling up the nano-manufacturing methods that the UCL team has specially developed to produce the glass, as well as the vanadium dioxide coating process.
Depending on the team's success in securing industrial interest, smart windows could begin to reach the market within around 3-5 years.
Papakonstantinou added: "We also hope to develop a ??€??smart' film that incorporates our nanostructures and can easily be added to conventional domestic, office, factory and other windows on a DIY basis to deliver the triple benefit of lower energy use, less light reflection and self-cleaning, without significantly affecting aesthetics."
Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC said: "This project is an example of how investing in excellent research drives innovation to produce tangible benefits. In this case the new technique could deliver both energy savings and cost reductions."