Whilst the world was preparing for COP26, a Purdue professor and his team of researchers announced the formulation of the world’s whitest acrylic paint. Dr Xiulin Ruan, a professor of mechanical engineering at the university, said the paint, which contains an extremely high concentration of barium sulphate, has the ability to reflect 98.1% of solar radiation and to deflect infrared heat, effectively allowing buildings to cool below the surrounding air temperature without using any power.
In his words, using the paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet could result in a cooling power of 10 kilowatts.Compared to this, white paint available in the market reportedly typically reflects 80-90% of the heat and apparently gets warmer than cooler.
The increase in efficiency and the reported potency in cooling down a building that the Purdue paint promises are sources of excitement that could provide a timely boost to global efforts at minimising greenhouse gas emissions – and not to forget, opening up the possibility of enhancing Indoor Air Quality. And further, not to forget, lowering total cost of ownership, which is as powerful a clincher as any in buying decisions.
This is not the first time that scientists and engineers have come up with yet another avenue of passive cooling.
It would be interesting to see if developers and building owners the world over respond substantially to the possible potential the development holds. At the time of writing this editorial, I am not privy to any downsides the paint might have.
Does the performance drop over time? I don’t have an answer to that. Is the paint expensive to procure? I don’t have the answer to that, either. But, if it is indeed effective, a simple cost-benefit analysis would point to the financial feasibility of applying to a vast inventory of buildings.
The world needs such solutions, and for barriers to be lowered. Any and every solution that can help avert a climate disaster is welcome, despite the disruptive nature, despite the substantial investment ploughed into mechanical solutions. And perhaps it is not disruptive if meant to complement efforts rather than replace them.
The point remains – we are quickly running out of time, and we are doing far, far less that we ought to, in efforts at cooling down the planet. The general consensus is that COP26 was a failure, and that we are too caught up in unyielding political structures and a climate of mistrust to be able to make any meaningful progress.
Yes, it is true, the construction and buildings sector represents just one source of emissions, with transportation and livestock being potent facets, but to lean on that would be a self-defeating argument. And that’s why we need more like Dr Xiulin Ruan to be flagbearers of progress – and salvation.