Imagine being able to cut your cooling costs to levels that are literally out of this world.
You begin by cutting out the middleman. There are just too many of them, from air-conditioning salesmen to electricians and repairmen.
Then you wait for a certain Stanford University project, yet unnamed, to succeed.
And you can blast your cooling costs out into space — or at least that’s the theory.
Stanford is developing technology that could slash the need for summertime air conditioning, which at presenty uses up about 15 percent of the US$180 billion spent on energy for commercial buildings in the United States.
Lowering a building’s temperature typically requires burning coal or gas to generate electricity, which runs the aircon, which lowers the mercury.
Far easier and cheaper than burning fuel to cool hot places would be to both stop the heat before it comes in and suck it out when it’s too hot.
The journal Nature describes a new, experimental material that can do those two things, according to Bloomberg.
Thin, silicon-based wafers act as both a rooftop mirror, reflecting sunlight and heat skyward, and as a kind of thermal funnel, drawing a building’s internal heat up through the roof.
Neither requires a volt of electricity.
The Stanford material can reduce the temperature by up to five degrees celsius, below the outside air temperature.
Experiments have proven successful on an eight-inch-diameter wafer.
The researchers’ next job is to scale up the effort.
“We need to get to a point where I can cover part of your roof,” said Shanhui Fan, a co-author and professor of electrical engineering.
“So there’s still a way to go.”
The reflective panel and coating can probably be manufactured using existing fabrication techniques, Fan said.
Scaling up will require more time, testing and money. The work so far has been supported by the US Energy Department’s high-end research agency.
The scientists have yet to commercialize their research.
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