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Brief Published: 12 Oct 2018

Resilient Coating Lowers Temperatures in Extreme Climates

In 2018, global temperatures look set to reach record highs for the fourth consecutive year (Carbon Brief, 2018). As reports emerge of buildings and infrastructural elements melting in the heat, designers need to specify more resilient materials that prolong product lifespans and protect people. We look at one potential solution.

Researchers at New York’s Columbia University have developed a coating that reflects over 96% of heat without using pigment or power. The innovation has far-reaching applications as it can be fabricated, dyed and applied like a paint to anything, including rooftops, buildings, vehicles and spacecrafts. 

Once applied, the coating is not reliant on power, making it a passive daytime radiative cooling (PDRC) method. This could prove valuable for developing countries, where electricity sources can be unreliable and the effects of climate change are extreme. Alternative methods of keeping temperatures cool, such as air conditioning units and electrical fans, are extremely energy-intensive.

White paint is often applied to aeroplane fuselages and buildings in hot climates as it typically contains titanium dioxide, which gives surfaces the reflective properties needed to keep them cool. However, white paints usually have pigments that absorb UV light, limiting their performance.

In the same way that soap bubbles or snow reflect light, the new pigment-free coating has a bubbly structured surface with air voids to increase reflectivity and create an insulating layer.

In our S/S 20 Colour Spectrum direction Augmented Space, we mention Vantablack – a pigment so dark that it alters our perception of form and dimension.

Look out for upcoming reports on how to future-proof design for challenging environmental conditions.