Scientists invent film that cool objects with zero energy

Global Business

Scientists invent film that cool objects with zero energy

It’s a type of air conditioner you don’t plug in. It doesn’t consume energy and doesn’t emit greenhouse gases. A new film, about as thick as a sheet of aluminum foil, could be cooling buildings and many other objects in the years to come.

CGTN’s Hendrick Sybrandy reports. 

The material addresses the challenge of cooling buildings which absorb the harsh light of the sun each day.

 “We generate a huge amount of wasted heat and that cannot be dumped out,” Ronggui Yang of the University of Colorado Boulder said.

Yang and a team of engineers have developed a film that both reflects incoming solar rays and allows the object it covers to release heat in the form of infrared radiation. The process is called radiative cooling.

“That infrared light goes out through the so-called atmospheric window to outer space,” Yang said.

“The energy is going to keep going from the Earth’s surface and never come back,” added Xiaobo Yin, Yang’s colleague at C.U. Boulder who helped perfect the film, which is a thin, transparent plastic with tiny glass beads of a very precise size mixed in.

“This is probably the thinnest material you can ever imagine that allows you to do this process,” Yin said.

The film is much more energy-efficient than air conditioners, which use electricity and refrigerants, both of which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The film also works better in some places than others.

“You can potentially apply this material on windows,” Yang said. “It helps cooling down a house.”

Insulated roofs, on the other hand, are more difficult. The film could eventually help cool down power plants. Cars are another option.

“Think about if you apply one-meter-square film on every single car,” said Yin. “That’s already a tremendous business we’re talking about.”

The scientists’ research, published earlier this year in the journal Science, is the product of a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. It’s already generated a lot of interest. The film, still awaiting a patent, has definite commercial possibilities.

“We do see great potential to put this in the market space,” said Yang.

The technology, which uses no electricity or water, could cool solar panels, making them more efficient and cost-effective than they are now. Testing on the film’s reliability and other issues continues in a Colorado lab.

“To us, it’s just a wonderful thing,” Yin said. “We should try to get everybody to use it, if we can.”

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