The Whitest Paint Ever Produced Could Save Energy, Fight Climate Change

The Whitest Paint Ever Produced Could Save Energy, Fight Climate Change Advertisement By: Patrick J. Kiger  | Apr 27, 2021 At noon on a sunny summer day, the temperature of a conventional dark-colored flat roof can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius), according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That heat will warm the inside […]

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The Whitest Paint Ever Produced Could Save ergy, Fight Climate Change

By: Patrick J. Kiger
 | 

At noon on a sunny summer y, the temperature of a convtional rk-colored flat roof can reach 150 degrees Fahrheit (65 degrees Celsius), according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That heat will warm the inside of a building or a house as well, making it necessary to use air conditioning — an ergy expditure that in turn oft requires burning fossil fuels at electrical power plants, whose emissions contribute to the progression of climate change. It’s a bedeviling problem that might be easily solved, if we only had roofs that reflected solar ergy back into the sky, instead of absorbing it.

That’s researchers’ developmt of the whitest paint ever created — an “ultra-white” formulation that reflects up to 98.1 perct of sunlight — could turn out to be a really big deal in the effort to reduce ergy consumption and combat the warming of our planet. The breakthrough is detailed in this article

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“This paint not only reflects the majority of the sunlight to avoid overheating, but also cools itself wn colder than the air surrounding it, ev under direct sunlight,” Xiangyu Li, the paper’s first author, says via email. He’s a postctoral researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who worked on the project while in graduate school at Purdue. (His coauthors include Joseph Peoples, Peiyan Yao and corresponding author Xiulin Ruan, a professor of mechanical gineering at Purdue, who leads the university’s Nanoscale Energy Transport and Conversion Laboratory.)

“In some way, it is effectively an air conditioner without consuming any electricity,” Li says.

Not only es the paint absorb very little ergy from sunlight, but it also emits thermal ergy in the infrared range back into the atmosphere, so that it travels out and away from Earth. “Both effects help reduce electricity or cooling needs,” Li says.

Researchers have be trying to make paints that could be used in passive cooling since the 1970s, but most of them have absorbed too much sunlight, so that they n’t provide any cooling effect in the ytime, Li explains. In rect years, scitists have also be exploring exotic technologies for creating light-reflecting surfaces, such as multi-layered nanonstructured films, but those solons td to be expsive and not easily scalable to buildings, according to Li.

That brought the researchers back to thinking that the best approach “is in the form of particle-polymer composite, which is similar to commercial paint,” Li explains.

Ordinary white paint isn’t quite white ough to help much with passive cooling — it only reflects 80 to 90 perct of sunlight, and actually gets warmer from absorbing ultraviolet light. So, the task became finding a way to make white paint ev whiter. And that turned out to be a challge.

“We first tried multiple materials with high electron band gap to avoid solar absorption,” Li says. “However, the paints oft appeared semi-transpart at low thickness due to the lack of ability to reflect sunlight. During our previous studies on commercial paints and theoretical modeling, we idtified that both high conctration and broad particle size distribon were beficial. As we implemted these two approaches, we saw the paint solon appear whiter compared to previous attempts.”

As Li explained in a Purdue news release, the researchers looked at “various commercial products, basically anything that’s white.” Evtually, “[w]e found that using ium sulfate, you can theoretically make things really, really reflective, which means that they’re really, really white.”

You may have heard of ium sulfate before. It’s the stuff that medical patits take in drink or tablet form to coat the esophagus, stomach and intestines wh they’re getting an exam or CT scan, so that ctors can see diseased or maged areas more ly, according to MedlinePlus. As a paint ingredit, Li notes, it’s already widely available and safe for humans and the vironmt.

The researchers used a variety of sizes of barium sulfate particles in the paint, which abled the paint to scatter more of the spectrum.

They also had to make sure that the paint would last ough outside to be suitable for painting rooftops. “We tested the abrasion resistance, three-week outor weathering and a water rinse test,” Li explains. “All three showed promising results as initial durability tests. We also tested the viscosity, and the paints can be brushed and dried very similar to commercial paint. It can also be fabricated in a similar way. In this work, we not only achieved a paint that is superior to the commercial paint, but also not need specialized equipmt or materials to fabricate, transport or apply the paint.”

Ultra-white paint looks pretty similar to regular white paint, because the differce in reflectivity, while significant in terms of cooling, is imperceptible to human eyes. “In the paper, we have a photo of both paints, which look almost idtical to each other,” Li says.

The next step in the research is to optimize the paint for -term durability under differt sorts of weather conditions. There isn’t yet a target te for it to be market-ready, so n’t search for it at the local hardware store just yet.

The opposite of ultra-white might be Vantablack, the brand name for a type of super-black coating that reflects less than 1 perct of light, developed by an glish company called Surrey NanoSystems.

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The Whitest Paint Ever Produced Could Save ergy, Fight Climate Change


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