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A radiative cooling structural material

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Science  24 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6442, pp. 760-763
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau9101

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A stronger, cooler wood

One good way to reduce the amount of cooling a building needs is to make sure it reflects away infrared radiation. Passive radiative cooling materials are engineered to do this extremely well. Li et al. engineered a wood through delignification and re-pressing to create a mechanically strong material that also cools passively. They modeled the cooling savings of their wood for 16 different U.S. cities, which suggested savings between 20 and 50%. Cooling wood would be of particular value in hot and dry climates.

Science, this issue p. 760

Abstract

Reducing human reliance on energy-inefficient cooling methods such as air conditioning would have a large impact on the global energy landscape. By a process of complete delignification and densification of wood, we developed a structural material with a mechanical strength of 404.3 megapascals, more than eight times that of natural wood. The cellulose nanofibers in our engineered material backscatter solar radiation and emit strongly in mid-infrared wavelengths, resulting in continuous subambient cooling during both day and night. We model the potential impact of our cooling wood and find energy savings between 20 and 60%, which is most pronounced in hot and dry climates.

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