Scientists have created an insulating coating that can significantly reduce energy consumption (and therefore also energy costs).

Scientists have created an insulating coating that can significantly reduce energy consumption (and therefore also energy costs).

And the paint is also available in different cool colors!

At this time, many people turn on the heating in winter and air conditioning in the summer. But to achieve the set zero emissions goals, the use of heating and air conditioning must be reduced. In this case, how do we avoid being too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer? The researchers suggest using innovative paint.

Call for new material
Currently, heating and air conditioning account for about 13 percent of global energy consumption. They also make up about 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. “While heating use is expected to decline, demand for air conditioning is increasing, especially in emerging economies in a warming world,” said researcher Yi Cui. “So the call for new materials to improve insulation is getting louder and louder.”

insulating coating
So Cui and his colleagues set their sights on this issue. This has now led to the development of a new type of coating. In concrete terms, this is an insulating coating that keeps homes and other buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, so that energy consumption, energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions can be significantly reduced.

Energy consumption
Researchers have shown in various experiments that energy consumption can be significantly reduced by coating. For example, the energy that would normally be used to heat a room appears to be reduced by about 36 percent after the paint was applied. The energy required to cool a room decreased by 21 percent. The team then simulated a mid-rise apartment building with newly developed paint applied to the walls and exterior surfaces. In this case, total energy consumption for heating, ventilation and air conditioning decreased by 7.4 percent over the year.

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At the moment there are already some other similar insulating paints. But they are often only available in metallic silver or gray. Since not everyone likes these beautiful colors, these paints are still used very little. On the other hand, the newly developed paint is available in a wide range of colors, so the researchers hope that more people will choose insulating paint.

two layers
The paint actually consists of two separate layers. The first is an infrared reflective bottom layer, and the second is an ultra-thin, infrared transparent top layer, with inorganic nanoparticles (available in different colors). To preserve heat, paint is best applied to walls and exterior surfaces. Most of the infrared light from the sun penetrates the upper layer and is then reflected by the lower layer. As a result, building materials do not absorb it as heat. If you want to keep the heat inside, it’s best to apply paint to the interior walls.

According to the researchers, the coating reflects about 80 percent of mid-infrared light. The top layer also reflects some infrared light. The team tested the insulating paint in white, blue, red, yellow, green, orange, purple and dark gray. Tests have shown that it reflects infrared light at least ten times better than regular paint.

Paint does not have to be applied only to homes or buildings. Trucks and rail cars used for refrigerated transport, for example, could also use a lick of insulating paint. This can significantly reduce cooling costs. “Both of these layers can be sprayed on different surfaces, different shapes and materials,” says researcher Yokan Peng. “So the coating can provide an additional protective thermal layer in many different situations.”

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Various objects coated with newly developed insulating paint. Photo: Yukan Peng

Another plus: The paint is also waterproof, which means it can be applied even in wet environments. Walls and painted surfaces can also be easily cleaned with a damp cloth or water spray. In addition, the researchers showed that the effectiveness of the coating does not decrease after continuous exposure to high or low temperatures. Even when the coating was exposed to 80°C and -195°C for a week, the insulation effect still took effect.

Study results published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencespromising. Thanks to paint, you can keep a room at the right temperature more easily, without having to turn on the heating or air conditioning right away. This greatly reduces energy consumption. The researchers plan to improve their coating in future research. “We are now studying water-based solutions,” says researcher Jian-Cheng Lai. “It’s much more environmentally friendly than the organic solutions we use now. This could make it easier to commercialize the paint.”

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