Many of us are familiar with the practice of wearing light-colored clothing in the summer and dark-colored clothing in the winter to help regulate our temperatures, but the characteristics of one unique creature could help buildings do basically the same, according to Prachi Patel of Anthropocene Magazine.
Scientists at China’s Harbin Institute of Technology took a page out of the book of the Namaqua chameleon by developing a color-changing coating.
Like the world’s only desert chameleon’s skin, the building coating adapts to its environment by turning a shade of dark brown when temperatures are cooler and shifting to light gray when it’s hot.
The scientists found that the coating’s transition to gray began at approximately 68 degrees Fahrenheit and reflected as much as 93% of warming solar radiation at 86 degrees.
“Furthermore, [it] exhibits excellent application performance with the advantages of low cost, easy preparation, and simple construction,” they wrote, per the Anthropocene article.
The researchers compared the effectiveness of the coating against white paint, blue steel tiles, and a passive radiative cooling paint over four seasons, according to Patel.
As detailed by an article from Solar Compass, posted by ScienceDirect, researchers have been experimenting with and refining a variety of reflective paints and coatings for decades as the need for cooling technology has increased because of warming global temperatures.
Now, this color-changing coating could be game-changing for the housing industry, providing hope for an eco-friendly solution similar to the impact of ultra-white paint on the cooling of vehicles and solar-reflective paint on outdoor areas made primarily of pavement.
Nano Letters, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, noted that the chameleon-inspired coating could reduce the amount of household energy used by up to 20% annually in certain areas compared to non-color-changing coatings meant to regulate temperature.
Study author and Harbin Institute Ph.D. student Yan Dong told Technology Networks that, unlike other types of radiative cooling materials, the new coating will not increase energy usage in the winter because of its color-changing properties, making it wallet-friendly as well.
Modern structures are responsible for the use of approximately one-third of all energy globally, according to the International Energy Agency, so cutting energy usage would help make a significant dent in the amount of harmful pollution generated.
Researchers are reportedly intending to gather more insights regarding the possible applications of this color-changing technology.
“In light of the positive findings, it is indeed worthwhile to consider further studies on [Temperature-Adaptive Radiative Cooling Coating],” Dong said.
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