New Material Uses the Cold Darkness of Outer Space To Cool Your House

Posted by K R on

In today's awesomely brutal-sounding material science news, Stanford engineers have created a building material that exploits that "cold darkness of the Universe" to cool itself—even when the sun is shining. Stanford calls it a "cosmic fridge," and it could replace air conditioning. In a fascinating paper published yesterday in Nature, Stanford's Shanhui Fan and Aaswath Raman explain how the material works by utilizing the familiar phenomenon calling radiative cooling. It's a pretty simple concept: Earth's atmosphere is transparent to specific wavelengths, around about eight microns—this is called the "thermal window," where heat radiates directly into space at those specific far-infrared wavelengths. This probably sounds familiar; as Stanford News explains, "invisible light in the form of infrared radiation is one of the ways that all objects and living things throw off heat," from our faces to our ovens. By dumping excess heat through this magical window at which wavelengths go from the Earth to space directly, the Stanford device uses our entire Universe as a heat dumping ground. "Think about it like having a window into space," Fan told Stanford News. Let's turn to IEEE Spectrum's excellent explanation for more:
The entire Universe, being mostly empty space, has an average temperature of just under three Kelvin, meaning that it'll happily absorb just about as much heat as you can possibly throw at it, making it a heat sink that's nearly, you know, universal.
via Gizmodo.

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