|Summer has arrived, and it’s only a matter of time before it brings the heat. Cities in particular are apt to suffer, yet a new technology may provide a new way to beat the sweltering heat.
When exposed to direct sunlight, asphalt surfaces are capable of reaching temperatures up to 172 degrees Fahrenheit. Roads and rooftops everywhere bake during the hottest time of the year, creating a “heat island effect.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, heat islands are “built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C). Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality.”
Luckily, a new technology might provide a solution. Researchers at the University of Technology in Sydney have developed a new material that can keep roofs cooler than the air above them — even in direct sunlight — thus reducing the effect of heat islands.
“We demonstrate for the first time how to make a roof colder than the air temperature around it, even under the most intense summer conditions,” said study co-author and Emeritus Professor Geoff Smith in a press release.
The super cool material is made of specialized plastics stacked on top of a layer of silver, and reflects 97% of the sunlight that hits it. In other words, it reflects sunlight so well that it doesn’t even warm up.
Compared to the energy efficient roofing materials currently available, the new material stays a whopping 50 degrees cooler.
“Cool roofing reduces the severity of the urban heat island problem in towns and cities and helps eliminate peak power demand problems from the operation of many air conditioners,” said Smith.
Although the material is not yet available to the market, it hopefully will be soon. With a warming planet and massive populations already suffering, the new material may be the key to staying cool in the face of a global inferno.