Buildings to be Cooled without Air Conditioning Thanks to New Structure Design

9th Apr 2013

A team of Stanford researchers have designed a new form of structure that can cool a building even when the sun is shining. It leads to the possibility that homes and offices could be cooled without the need for air conditioning.

It works, not just by reflecting the sunlight away from the building, but actually back into space. Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford and the papers lead author, said that “people usually see space as a source of heat from the sun, but away from the sun outer space is really a cold, cold place. We've developed a new type of structure that reflects the vast majority of sunlight, while at the same time it sends heat into that coldness, which cools humanmade structures even in the day time.”

The engineers had two hurdles to overcome with their design. They had to develop a structure that was efficient enough to reflect as much sunlight as possible without absorbing the heat, which would defeat the purpose of the product. The product also had to radiate heat energy back into space, requiring the emission of thermal radiation within a specific wavelength range which allows it to pass through the Earth’s atmosphere without being reflected back down.

The researchers successfully used nanostructured photonic materials to overcome both of these obstacles.

By. Joao Peixe