WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Could paint be a replacement for air conditioning?
It may sound like something you’d see in Back to the Future. Instead, it’s coming from the minds of researchers and students at Purdue University.
Xiulin Ruan, Ph.D., is a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue. He and his team of students and researchers have created a new kind of paint that they hope can be used to save enormous amounts of energy across the country.
Their project began six years ago and is based on research and experiments that dates back to the 1970’s, during the great energy crisis that rocked the United States. During that time, researchers began to wonder if paint could be used to reflect sunlight. Their theory was that paint could reflect sunlight and make buildings cooler and save energy used from air conditioning. Most common paints absorb heat, which causes temperatures to rise and activates air conditioning units.
Over 50 years later, Professor Ruan’s team has created a paint that does just that.
“So eventually we made a material very similar to commercial paint,” Professor Ruan tells WIBC. “[Our paint] shows 95.5% of sunlight being reflected, while even the so-called heat rejecting paints on the market only reflect 80-90% of sunlight.”
The paint is white in color, non-toxic, and it can be sprayed or brushed like any other paint. The difference is in the paint’s recipe: it’s filler is calcium carbonate, a compound found in rocks and seashells. The paint also has layers of particles that are different sizes, which allows the paint to defend against a wider range of sunlight wavelengths.
What does that mean in English? Simply put, the paint can take on whatever the sun has to offer.
However, Professor Ruan says the project wouldn’t be where it is today without the students and facilities of Purdue University.
He told WIBC, “I think all these of three elements; the high quality students, the best class facilities, and the best partnerships we can find, are all important to make this work happen.”
Professor Ruan says the paint still needs to undergo more intense testing before it can be manufactured for the market. He says that the paint has been left outside in different weather environments for as long as two months and showed great water resistance, but he wants to push the limits of the paint even further.
The endgame for the paint remains the same: to save the most amount of energy possible and reduce costs.
And don’t worry, they’re working on more colors than just white.