Overheating is a problem for people, places, and all manner of systems. There’s high value in reliable means of cooling, especially when it’s low cost and versatile.

That’s why this new cheap plastic film offers a lot more than meets the eye. Thanks to its unique qualities, this material could be incorporated into a range of different applications for purposes of passive cooling.

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Passive Cooling At Low Cost
The new cooling plastic is embedded with tiny glass spheres. This arrangement of materials absorbs only small amounts of visible light but it can also absorb heat from almost any material to which its applied.

Add a reflective silver film to this combination and the result is a temperature reduction of as much as 10 degrees celsius. The film is cheap to produce in high volumes and could be applied to a range of different structures and products, from the roofs of houses to solar cells, for efficient, low cost temperature reduction.

Credit: W.carter

From Clean Room Production To Commercial Grade Products
This development comes from University of Colorado in Boulder materials scientist Xiaobo Yin. Using the work started by a Stanford University research team, Yin simplified the formation of a layered film made from silicon dioxide and hafnium dioxide.

This film was able to passively cool surfaces by as much as 5 degrees celsius, but it required clean room technology for production, resulting in higher production costs and lower yield.

When Yin and his team decided to attempt a similar approach, instead using commercial grade glass powder, polymethylpentene, and a thin silver coating, they found this combination to be notably effective for reflecting visible light and blocking heat absorption.

In the process, they also created a film that conducted heat away from whatever surface on which it was placed.

CU boulder researchers demonstrating their newly engineered material

Image Source: University Of Colorado Boulder

Possible Power Efficiency Booster
The new film can be produced for just $0.25 to $0.50 per square meter, making it a viable solution for a range of industrial and structural uses. Yin and his team are currently seeing how the film could be used to passively cool buildings and offset the use and expense of air conditioning and electric fans.

The heat reduction properties of the film also show potential for applications like power plants and solar panels. In these settings, reduced temperatures of just a few degrees could amount to considerable efficiency improvements.


Don’t go looking for this film too soon however; tests on durability and the impact of cold and cloudy days still must be completed before this material leaves the lab.

How would you like to see this inexpensive, passively cooling film used? Share your thoughts on this story in the comments.

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