A plant-based iridescent film can cool buildings (and more) and reduce the need for air conditioning

Elizabeth Smith

A team of chemists at the University of Cambridge has created a special plant-based coating for cooling down buildings. We are talking about a film that can be applied on surfaces and that is able to cool down when exposed to sunlight.

An important innovation that could reduce the need for air conditioning in buildings and vehicles, with a positive impact on the environment.

How the plant-based cooling film works

The coating developed by the researchers takes advantage of the now well-known property of passive diurnal radiative cooling (PDRC). This means it does not absorb much light and radiates heat at a wavelength that escapes the atmosphere, dispersing directly into space.

The film, presented at the spring conference meeting of the American Chemical Society is composed of nanocrystalline cellulose (CNC), a series of tiny particles the size of individual wavelengths of light. Quest CNCs can take on red, green or blue colors, but they are quite fragile.

However, researchers have found a way to combine them with ethyl cellulose, a white and more flexible material. The result is a film that stays 4°C cooler than room temperature during the day.

The possible applications

What are the possible applications of this innovative cooling film? So many. This film can be produced in large quantities, and cellulose is an inexpensive raw material.

Before it can be applied to cars or buildings, scientists want to explore other functions as well. For example, CNCs are sensitive to pollutants. So they could be developed to incorporate smoke or smog detectors to be built directly into the coatings.

With these iridescent and sustainable coatings, we could soon decisively reduce the work of expensive and polluting air-conditioning systems. Thus by supporting them with an eco-friendly and equally effective solution.

Read also: Urban greenery: how planting trees will save cities from rising temperatures

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