A team of researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder has developed a novel material that can cool buildings without consuming any power. The material, which is a thin film composed of silver and glass in a polymer known as polymethylpentene, can be produced less expensively than comparable films made from other materials.
The film works because the solar radiation passes through the polymer, but reflects off of the silver layer. The silver layer does not absorb the solar radiation. Instead, the glass reflects the heat, which is created by infrared waves, away from the glass.
The film has been tested under midday heat – the point at which the infrared waves are most intense – and it has performed very well. The new material can be produced quickly and efficiently, using a roll to roll process. The finished film is about as thick as a piece of aluminum foil, like the kind used in a kitchen.
The team will continue to test the material to determine its overall durability and longevity. The team will also experiment with a “cooling farm” in 2017. According to the University of Colorado researchers, 10 to 20 square meters of their material would keep an average sized home continuously cool during the summer. Having said that, they also caution that the film isn’t something that can simply be applied to a home’s roof and left in place, because while it will cool the home effectively in summer, it will also cool a home in the winter – an undesirable condition, especially for homes in the northern part of the country.
Researchers at Stanford University developed a similar film in 2014, but that composition used alternating layers of silicon dioxide and hafnium dioxide. This film is more expensive to produce, and hafnium dioxide is in limited supply. The University of Colorado Boulder team uses commonly available materials. Both materials have a surface temperature that’s less than the surrounding air temperature, even in midday heat.
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