Notice anything unusual about this shade of white?

·3 min read

With summer approaching, many Americans may be dreading the electric bills associated with air conditioners that are kicked into high gear to keep indoor spaces cool.

But imagine not having to use your air conditioner at all this summer and still keeping a home or office space cool.

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana say a scenario like that could be possible with a new product they have developed -- the whitest paint ever made.

Joseph Peoples is one of the scientists who worked to develop the whitest paint on record. Peoples is a Ph.D. student in Purdue University's mechanical engineering program. He told AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor that the paint the Purdue team created will keep buildings cooler.

Mechanical engineering Ph.D. student Joseph Peoples.

"This is the first-ever radiative cooling paint," he said, adding that in layman's terms: "It's a single-layer paint that you could put outside, and it will passively come below the ambient temperature."

This is achieved by sending the heat back into space, which, in turn, keeps surfaces up to 19 degrees cooler at night and 8 degrees cooler during the day.

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Peoples said that on a sunny day, walls become 10-20 degrees Celsius hotter than ambient air. "So, the air conditioning is working against that. But since we're dropping it below the ambient, we're creating less of a load for the air conditioner -- which is then saving electricity."

The manager of the project, Mechanical Engineering Professor Xiulin Raun, said commercial paints can reflect up to 90% of sunlight, meaning only 10% is absorbed, and sometimes as much as 20% of sunlight is absorbed.

Professor Xiulin Raun working in a lab with Joseph Peoples.

The paint that has been developed reflects 98.1% and absorbs just 1.9% of sunlight, Raun told AccuWeather. More than 100 materials were considered for the project, with barium sulfate emerging as the winning ingredient.

"We went first to other materials that do not absorb UV light at all - that includes oxides, carbonites, sulfates," said Ruan. Barium sulfate can also be found in photo paper and is used to make cosmetics whiter.

Six years of swatch testing were needed to get the results that the Purdue team was looking for.

A sample of the cooling white paint

As part of the next phase, enough paint will be produced to test it in buildings. Finding days to test it has become difficult, as cloudy days will void test results.

"I check my AccuWeather app weekly to see the best days to test our paint," said Peoples.

The paint works during all times of the year, meaning the paint would decrease temperatures in the winter months also.

If all goes well, the plan is to have the product on the market within the next five to 10 years.

Reporting by Emmy Victor.

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