• June 20, 2024, 10:21 pm

Butterfly-inspired paint could boost energy efficiency -2024 SoftAIT

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Update : Wednesday, January 3, 2024
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Butterfly-inspired paint could boost energy efficiency

Boost energy efficiency, The exterior paint on a building is often a major factor in keeping their indoors appropriately warm or cool, and a lot of work goes into developing new concoctions to improve insulation. Unfortunately, the volatile organic compounds found in modern synthetic paint have been shown to have harmful effects on both the environment and humans. On top of all that, air conditioning still contributes to over 10 percent of all electricity consumption in the US.

boost energy efficiency

Those species and others inspired a researcher at the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center to create an ultra-lightweight, environmentally safe “plasmonic paint.” The unique paint relies on nanoscale structural arrangements of aluminum and aluminum oxide instead of traditional pigments to generate its hues. As detailed in Debashis Chanda’s recent paper published in Science Advances, traditional pigment paint colorants rely on their molecules’ light absorption properties to determine colors. Chanda’s plasmonic paint, in contrast, employs light reflection, absorption, and scattering based on its nanostructural geometric arrangements to create its visual palettes.

[Related: Are monarch butterflies endangered in the US?]

“The range of colors and hues in the natural world are astonishing—from colorful flowers, birds and butterflies to underwater creatures like fish and cephalopods,” said Chanda in a statement on Wednesday. Chanda went on to explain that these examples’ structural color serves as their hue-altering mechanism, as two colorless materials combine to produce color.

Compared to traditional available paint, Chanda’s plasmonic version is both dramatically longer lasting, eco-friendly, and efficient. Normal paints fade as their pigments lose the ability to absorb light electrons, but plasmonics’ nanostructural attributes ensure color could remain as vibrant as the day it was applied “for centuries,” claimed Chanda.

A layer of plasmonic paint can achieve full coloration at just 150 nanometers thick, making it arguably the lightest paint in the world, and ensuring magnitudes less is needed for projects. Chanda estimated that just three pounds of plasmonic paint would cover an entire Boeing 747 jet exterior—a job that usually requires around 1,000 pounds of synthetic paint.

[Related: A new paint can reflect up to 98.1 percent of sunlight.]

And then there’s the energy savings. Plasmonic paint reflects the entire infrared spectrum, thereby absorbing far less heat. During testing, a surface layered with the new substance typically remained between 25 and 30F cooler than a surface painted with commonly available commercial options. That could save consumers’ bucket loads of cash, not to mention dramatically cut down on energy needed to power A/C systems.

Chanda said fine-tuning is still needed to improve plasmonics’ commercial viability, as well as scale up production abilities to make it a feasible replacement for synthetic paint. Still, natural inspirations like butterflies could be what ultimately help save their beauty for centuries to come.

“As a kid, I always wanted to build a butterfly,” said Chanda. “Color draws my interest.”

  1. The Concept of Biomimicry: Biomimicry, derived from the Greek words bios (life) and mimesis (imitation), refers to the practice of emulating nature’s designs and processes to solve human challenges. This interdisciplinary approach draws inspiration from the natural world, where millions of years of evolution have resulted in highly efficient and sustainable solutions to various problems. From the aerodynamic design of birds’ wings to the self-cleaning properties of lotus leaves, biomimicry offers a treasure trove of innovative ideas for engineers, designers, and scientists.
  2. Inspiration from Butterfly Wings: Butterflies are renowned for their dazzling array of colors and patterns, which are not only aesthetically pleasing but also serve functional purposes. The microscopic structures found on butterfly wings, known as nanostructures, play a crucial role in regulating temperature by controlling the reflection and absorption of light. These nanostructures are responsible for the vivid colors observed in butterflies, as well as their ability to stay cool in the harsh glare of sunlight.

Researchers have long been intrigued by the remarkable properties of butterfly wings and sought to replicate them in synthetic materials. By studying the intricate nanostructures through advanced imaging techniques, scientists have gained insights into their optical properties and how they can be harnessed for practical applications.

  1. Development of Butterfly-Inspired Paint: Building upon their understanding of butterfly wing nanostructures, researchers have developed a specialized paint that mimics the optical properties of these natural structures. The key innovation lies in the paint’s ability to reflect sunlight while also emitting thermal radiation, effectively keeping surfaces cooler than traditional coatings.

The paint consists of microscopic particles embedded within a polymer matrix, carefully engineered to replicate the nanostructures found on butterfly wings. These particles scatter incoming sunlight across a broad spectrum of wavelengths, reducing the amount of heat absorbed by the painted surface. Additionally, the paint emits infrared radiation in the form of heat, allowing excess thermal energy to escape into the atmosphere.

  1. How Butterfly-Inspired Paint Works: The effectiveness of butterfly-inspired paint lies in its ability to manipulate light and heat at the nanoscale. When sunlight strikes the painted surface, the nanostructured particles scatter and reflect a significant portion of the incoming radiation. This reduces the amount of solar energy absorbed by the surface, helping to keep it cooler than traditional paints.

Moreover, the paint’s unique composition allows it to emit thermal radiation in the form of infrared light. Unlike conventional coatings that trap heat within the substrate, butterfly-inspired paint actively radiates excess thermal energy away from the surface. This passive cooling mechanism helps to maintain lower temperatures, particularly in hot and sunny environments.

By combining these optical properties, butterfly-inspired paint offers a dual benefit of solar reflectance and thermal emittance, making it highly effective at reducing surface temperatures and lowering the energy required for cooling.

  1. Potential Applications: The development of butterfly-inspired paint holds promise for a wide range of applications across various industries. In the construction sector, where energy consumption for cooling represents a significant portion of overall usage, the use of reflective coatings could lead to substantial energy savings. Buildings and structures coated with butterfly-inspired paint would require less air conditioning during hot weather, resulting in lower electricity bills and reduced carbon emissions.

Additionally, the paint could find applications in transportation, such as coating the exteriors of vehicles and aircraft to mitigate heat buildup under direct sunlight. By keeping surfaces cooler, the paint could improve passenger comfort and reduce the energy needed to maintain interior temperatures.

In urban environments, where the urban heat island effect exacerbates temperatures, butterfly-inspired paint could help mitigate heat-related issues. Coating rooftops, pavements, and other surfaces with reflective coatings could contribute to cooler microclimates, enhancing the livability of cities and reducing the strain on infrastructure.


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