New building material "vents" heat into outer space

Material could help buildings cut cooling costs.

Space: the final frontier — is also the ultimate heat sink.

Researchers at Stanford say they've developed a material that cools itself by beaming excess heat into space; they hope it can one day be used to keep buildings cool on hot, sunny days.

Traditional ideas about thermodynamics suggest an object like a building can't be cooled below the temperature of the surrounding ambient air without the assistance of a something like air conditioning. Two objects -- side by side, one hot and one cold -- will eventually even their relative temperatures, the excess heat of one radiates to the other until equilibrium is met.

But a new material, developed by Stanford electrical engineer Shanhui Fan, sidesteps this reality by beaming excess energy past the surrounding air and into space. The ultrathin, multilayered material not only reflects visible light, preventing sunlight from warming it, but it also emits infrared light at frequencies that allow it to pass through the atmosphere without warming the air. The infrared light is transferred from the building material all the way out into space.

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