New material adapts heat emission for energy savings

Chicago University researchers have designed a building material that adjusts its emission of infrared colour and heat according to outdoor temperatures, which could provide low-energy temperature regulation for buildings.  

In a recent paper published in Nature Sustainability, researchers explained that their non-flammable electrochromic building material contains a layer that can reversibly shift between solid and liquid states using a small amount of energy.

In its solid copper state, the material retains most infrared heat, while as a watery solution it emits more infrared. According to researchers, the material can emit up to 92 per cent of its infrared heat on hot days, helping to cool interiors, while on cooler days it can emit just 7 per cent of its infrared to help keep a building warm.

“Our work suggests a feasible pathway to radiative thermoregulation for more energy-efficient HVAC and solving some of the global climate change issues,” say researchers.

“Radiative thermoregulation can reduce the energy consumption for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) in buildings, and therefore contribute substantially to climate change mitigation.”

However, research is still in its early days, with manufactured materials only about 6cm in size and researchers investigating different ways to fabricate the material.

Modelling shows that in an average commercial building, the electricity used to induce electrochromic changes in the material would be less than 0.2 per cent of the total electricity usage of the building, but could save 8.4 per cent of the building’s annual HVAC energy consumption.

Read the research paper, “Dynamic electrochromism for all-season radiative thermoregulation”, here.

Photo by wong zihoo on Unsplash

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