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Too Hot? Just Open a Window...Into Space

Norbert von der Groeben/Stanford
Monday, December 8, 2014

Engineers at Stanford University have created a material that can radiate heat away from buildings and send it directly into space. Composed of layers of silicon dioxide and hafnium oxide atop of a layer of silver, the material is only 1.8 microns thick, which is 50 times thinner than a sheet of paper. The material can reflect sunlight back into space like a mirror and direct heat-bearing infrared rays away from the source and into the cosmos. The material, when applied to a surface, can cool it by 5 degrees Celsius through a process dubbed by the Stanford team as "photonic radiative cooling". The team has been able to use this technique to passively cool structures even during the day, which is typically challenging due to the warming presence of the sun. The material accomplishes this feat by combining high reflectivity with simultaneous radiating into space. The team has currently developed a small prototype, but will need to devise a way to scale the material up to potentially cover the roof of a building. The material can hopefully be used in this manner to help cool homes and businesses, reducing the need for air conditioning. 

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