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Researchers Create New Cooling Coating

Monday, October 1, 2018

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Columbia University researchers recently announced the development of a white polymer coating that reflects more than 96 percent of sunlight, offering a new solution for cooling demands in warm climates.

The coating, which is flexible, is produced in a dyeable, paint-like form, and can be used almost anywhere traditional paint can be applied.

Cooling Coating

To create the coating, the research team engineered a mixture that forces water to settle into small droplets; when those evaporate, the air holes left behind are what helps the coating reflect the sunlight so effectively.

The team—composed of assistant professor of materials science and engineering Yuan Yang; associate professor of applied physics Nanfang Yu; and Jyotirmoy Mandal, doctoral student and lead author of the study—based their research upon earlier work that demonstrated that simple plastics are excellent heat radiators, which can be used in passive daytime radiative cooling.

The team chose to use phase-inversion in their research because it seemed to be a simple solution—it creates air voids in polymers that also scatter light. In using this method, the pigments in white paint are replaced with air voids that reflect all waves of sunlight, ranging from UV to infrared.

“This simple but fundamental modification yields exceptional reflectance and emittance that equal or surpass those of state-of-the-art PDRC designs, but with a convenience that is almost paint-like,” said Mandal.

The first test run was completed in Phoenix, a city known for its oppressive heat. During the test, the coating was applied to a copper sheet monitored with sensors. After 30 minutes, the team found that the coating was six degrees cooler than the ambient temperature.

“The fact that cooling is achieved in both desert and tropical climates, without any thermal protection or shielding, demonstrates the utility of our design wherever cooling is required,” Yang said.

The team also created colored polymer coatings by adding dyes; these options have similar cooling capacities.

“Polymers are an amazingly diverse class of materials, and because this technique is generic, additional desirable properties can be conveniently integrated into our PDRC coatings, if suitable polymers are available,” Mandal said.


Tagged categories: Coating Materials; Coatings Technology; Polymers; Research and development; Solar reflectance

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