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Desert Ant Inspires Coating Material

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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Led by Columbia University (New York City) physics professor Nanfang Yu, researchers have developed a new coating material designed to help keep buildings cool.

The coating was inspired by the Saharan Silver Ant—a species of ant that is heat-tolerant and primarily lives in desert areas.

Developing the Material

Yu and colleagues from the University of Zürich and the University of Washington first looked to the ant in 2015 when they discovered that its exterior, made up of uniquely shaped small silvery hairs with triangular cross-sections, reflects the sunlight and ultimately radiates heat.

Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Led by Columbia University (New York City) physics professor Nanfang Yu, researchers have developed a new coating material designed to help keep buildings cool.

The team was the first to demonstrate that the ant’s coat can control electromagnetic waves over a broad range of solar to thermal radiation spectrums. Their research, “Saharan Silver Ants Keep Cool By Combining Enhanced Optical Reflection and Radiative Heat Dissipation,” was published in June 2015 in Science magazine.

“Such biologically inspired cooling surfaces will have high reflectivity in the solar spectrum and high radiative efficiency in the thermal radiation spectrum,” Yu explained at the time of the study. “So this may generate useful applications such as a cooling surface for vehicles, buildings, instruments, and even clothing.”

Over the years, the team focused on just that: how to develop a coatings material that would replicate the ant’s physical properties, reflecting heat off and keeping interiors cool.

According to reports, the coating that Yu and his team have developed today can reflect up to 99% of sunlight when properly applied to a rooftop’s surface, and works better than traditional white paint.

“If you put this coating on the top of the roof, that may translate into a saving of electricity in the summertime,” says Yu.

However, Yu also reports that the developing coating material still requires more research and testing before it’s technology can be released into the market.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Coating Materials - Commercial; Coatings; Coatings Technology; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Research; Research and development; Z-Continents

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