Engineers at University of Colorado Boulder have created a metamaterial that can cool roofs and structures without using water or electricity. This type of innovation will start shaping new ways to design buildings and new, more efficient ways for the buildings to function.

A team of University of Colorado Boulder engineers has developed a scalable manufactured metamaterial—an engineered material with extraordinary properties not found in nature —to act as a kind of air conditioning system for structures. It has the ability to cool objects even under direct sunlight with zero energy and water consumption.

When applied to a surface, the metamaterial film cools the object underneath by efficiently reflecting incoming solar energy back into space while simultaneously allowing the surface to shed its own heat in the form of infrared thermal radiation.

The new material, which is described today in the journal Science, could provide an eco-friendly means of supplementary cooling for thermoelectric power plants, which currently require large amounts of water and electricity to maintain the operating temperatures of their machinery.

The researchers' glass-polymer hybrid material measures just 50 micrometers thick—slightly thicker than the aluminum foil found in a kitchen—and can be manufactured economically on rolls, making it a potentially viable large-scale technology for both residential and commercial applications.

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