Snow white

Look at the whitest paint ever invented

Vantablack has met its match.

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You may have heard of Vantablack — the “blackest black” material that absorbs 99.9 percent of all light that strikes it.

Purdue University/Jared Pike

Now, scientists have created its near opposite, a white paint that reflects almost all of the light that shines on it.

Purdue University photo/Jared Pike

Created by engineers at Purdue University, this extremely white paint reflects up to 98.1 percent of sunlight.

Purdue University photo/Jared Pike

That makes it the most reflective paint ever made. It even beats the same team’s previous effort using calcium carbonate, which reflected 95.5 percent of sunlight.

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To develop the new paint, the engineers used barium sulfate, a reflective compound also found in cosmetics and photo printer paper. Using particles of varying sizes increases the amount of light that the paint can scatter.

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It’s more than just a novel experiment with color.

The researchers say that by reflecting heat away from buildings, the ultra-white paint could reduce the need for air conditioning and help fight the climate crisis.

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"If you were to use this paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet, we estimate that you could get a cooling power of 10 kilowatts. That's more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most houses.”

Purdue mechanical engineering professor Xiulin Ruan

Tests show the paint can keep surfaces 19 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than their surroundings at night, and 8 degrees cooler in direct sunlight.

Purdue University/Joseph Peoples

Vincent Burkhead

It would be possible to make the paint even more reflective by adding more barium sulfate, but not without making it too brittle to be practical.

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In its current formulation, the bright white paint can survive outdoor conditions and be made with current commercial paint manufacturing techniques, according to its developers.

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Researchers have been working for decades on materials to passively cool buildings. According to its inventors, the whitest paint builds on work that started in the 1970s.

Read more stories on innovation here.

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