Created the world's first energy-saving paint

Inspired by butterflies, a team at the University of Central Florida (UCF) has created an eco-friendly paint that saves electricity and reduces global warming.

Created the world's first energy-saving paint
The team created energy-saving paint inspired by butterflies. (Photo: Science Advances)

Researcher Debashis Chanda, professor at UCF’s Center for Nanoscience Technology, and colleagues describe the process of developing the new paint March 8 in the journal Science Advances . Drawing on biological inspiration, Chanda’s team created a plasmon paint , using a nanostructured arrangement of colorless materials such as aluminum and aluminum oxide instead of pigments. While pigment dyes control light absorption based on the electronic characteristics of the colored material, so each color requires a new molecule, texture dyes control how light is reflected, dispersed or absorbed based on on the geometric arrangement of nanostructures.

Texture dyes are very environmentally friendly because only metals and oxides are used, which is different from the current pigment dyes that use synthetic molecules. The researchers combined a texture dye with a commercial binder to create a paint that lasts in all colors. “Colors are normally faded because the dye loses its ability to absorb photons,” says Chandra. “We’re not limited by that phenomenon here. When we paint an object with texture dyes, the paint will last for centuries.”

In addition, because plasmon paints reflect the entire infrared spectrum, this paint absorbs less heat. As a result, the underlying surface is 13.8 – 16.6 degrees Celsius cooler than using standard commercial paint. “More than 10% of all electricity in the US goes to air conditioning,” Chanda said. “The temperature difference that plasmon paint promises to bring will help save electricity significantly, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions, contributing to limiting global warming.”

Plasson paints are also extremely light due to their large cross-sectional/thickness coefficients. The thickness of the coating is only 150 nanometers, making it the lightest paint in the world. This paint is so light that only 1.4kg of plasmon paint is enough to cover a Boeing 747 aircraft, which would require more than 454 kg if using conventional paint. According to Chandra, the next step of the project includes further exploration of the coating’s energy-saving properties to improve profitability in commercial production.