A New Paint Could Help Protect the Planet

Professor Xiulin Ruan holds a sample of the paint.

Reduce, reuse, recycle, … repaint? Yes! Painting buildings with a new kind of paint could help protect our planet.

Professor Xiulin Ruan teaches engineering at Purdue University. He and his students created the new paint to end the need for air conditioners. Air conditioners use a lot of electricity. The new white paint can keep buildings cool without use any.

How does the paint work? It reflects 98.1% of sunlight. That means most of the sunlight bounces off a painted surface, keeping it cool. In fact, this paint can keep surfaces cooler than areas around them: 19°F cooler at night, and 8°F cooler during the day. The new paint is so white, Guinness World Records calls it the world’s whitest paint.

Ruan and his team did a lot of research to make the paint. They looked at many materials and asked questions. How can a material reflect the most sunlight? What makes some materials whiter than others? They learned that a chemical substance used in white photo paper could make things very white, or ultra-white. They used that same substance in the paint. They didn’t use too much of it, though. Too much could cause the paint could break or peel off.

The world’s whitest paint isn’t just for buildings. According to Ruan, painting rooftops, roads, and cars could also help cool Earth’s surface.

What do you think? Which of the three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle—does the new paint do? How?

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Photo Credit: Jared Pike/Purdue University