Purdue is making the world’s whitest paint thinner than ever, with benefits for vehicles

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana (WANE) – Purdue University has found a way to break its own record by making the world’s whitest paint even thinner and lighter.

Purdue researchers developed the formula that earned a Guinness World Record in 2021. The goal was to ultimately reduce the need for air conditioning in homes, and now they’re expanding that goal.

A university press release on Monday announced a new version of the paint that can radiate heat from cars, trains and planes.

Purdue University researchers have developed a new formula for the world’s whitest paint that makes it thinner and lighter. The previous iteration (left) required a 0.4 millimeter thick layer to achieve sub-ambient radiative cooling. The new formulation can achieve similar cooling with a layer thickness of just 0.15 millimeters. This is thin and light enough to apply its radiant cooling effect to vehicles such as cars, trains and airplanes. (Photo by Purdue University/Andrea Felicelli)

“I’ve been contacted by everyone from spacecraft manufacturers to architects to companies that make clothes and shoes,” said Xiulin Ruan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University and the color’s developer. “They mostly had two questions: Where can I buy it and can it be made thinner?”

Following the success of the original formula, the research team has continued to push the limits of materials’ ability to scatter sunlight. Purdue’s press release explained the latest formulation is a nanoporous paint containing hexagonal boron nitride as a pigment, a substance used primarily in lubricants. This new paint achieves almost the same solar reflectance benchmark (97.9%) with just a single 150 micron layer of paint.

In addition, the paint contains air voids that make it highly porous in the nano range. This lower density, together with the reduced thickness, offers another major advantage: reduced weight. The newer paint weighs 80% less than barium sulfate paint and still achieves nearly identical solar reflectance.

“This light weight opens the doors to all kinds of applications,” said George Chiu, a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering and inkjet printing expert. “Now this color has the potential to cool the exterior of planes, cars or trains. An airplane parked on the runway on a hot summer’s day does not need to run its air conditioning system as hard to cool the interior, saving large amounts of energy. Spacecraft also need to be as light as possible, and this color can be part of that.”

So where can we buy the paint?

“We are currently in talks to commercialize it,” Ruan said. “There are still some issues that need to be addressed, but progress is being made.”

Purdue researchers are excited to see what the color could do.

“Using this paint helps cool surfaces and significantly reduces the need for air conditioning,” Ruan said. “This not only saves money, but also reduces energy consumption, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And unlike other cooling methods, this paint radiates all the heat into space, which also directly cools our planet. It’s pretty amazing that one color can do it all.”

https://www.wane.com/news/indiana/purdue-makes-worlds-whitest-paint-thinner-than-ever-with-benefits-for-vehicles/ Purdue is making the world’s whitest paint thinner than ever, with benefits for vehicles

Dais Johnston

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