Ultra-white paint could reduce need for ac, Purdue researchers say

Xiulin Ruan, professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, shows his lab sample of the whitest paint on record. (Credit: Purdue University / Jared Pike)

Engineers at Purdue University say they’ve created the whitest paint to date, and it could reduce the need for air conditioning and curb global warming.

The researchers said that surfaces and buildings covered in ultra-white paint can keep surfaces cooler.

“If you were to use this paint to cover a roof area of ​​around 1,000 square feet, we estimate that you could achieve 10 kilowatts of cooling power,” Professor Xiulin Ruan said in a press release. “It’s more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most homes.”

According to the researchers, the new paint reflects up to 98.1% of sunlight and at the same time draws infrared heat away from a surface.

RELATED: “Red Code for Humanity”: UN report on climate change warns of “unprecedented” impacts

They say typical commercial white paint gets hotter than cold and can only reflect around 80-90% of sunlight.

What makes the whitest paint so white is the high concentration of a chemical called barium sulfate, which is also used to make photo paper and cosmetics white, the researchers say.

The second explanation is that the barium sulfate particles all have different sizes in the paint, which can diffuse more light depending on their size. This allows for a wider range of particle sizes, which allows the paint to further scatter sunlight.

“A high concentration of particles which are also of different sizes gives the painting the widest spectral scattering, which contributes to the highest reflectance,” said student Joseph Peoples.

Researchers have also shown outdoors that paint can keep surfaces 19 degrees cooler than their natural surroundings at night. It can also cool surfaces to 8 degrees below their surroundings under strong sunlight during midday hours.

A patent application is currently pending with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

By eliminating the need for atmospheric conditions, researchers hope it could combat global warming, a crisis that President Joe Biden has repeatedly highlighted.

Biden stressed the need to do more on climate change after touring New York and New Jersey storm damage on Tuesday after Hurricane Ida earlier this month.

RELATED Biden declares ‘code red’ on climate change after visiting Ida damage in New York, NJ

“People, we have to listen to scientists, economists and national security experts, they all tell us this is ‘code red’, that the nation and the world are in peril,” Biden said during a press conference in Queens, New York. “It’s not hyperbole. It’s a fact.”

Biden’s goal of tackling climate change is part of his broader infrastructure plan known as the ‘Build Back Better’ program, which also calls for more jobs, easier access to healthcare and tax cuts.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.

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