XiaoZhi Lim in Nature:
When businessman Howard Bisla was tasked with saving a local shop from financial ruin, one of his first concerns was energy efficiency. In June 2018, he approached his local electricity provider in Sacramento, California, about upgrading the lights. The provider had another idea. It offered to install an experimental cooling system: panels that could stay colder than their surroundings, even under the blazing hot sun, without consuming energy. The aluminium-backed panels now sit on the shop’s roof, their mirrored surfaces coated with a thin cooling film and angled to the sky. They cool liquid in pipes underneath that run into the shop, and, together with new lights, have reduced electricity bills by around 15%. “Even on a hot day, they’re not hot,” Bisla says.
The panels emerged from a discovery at Stanford University in California. In 2014, researchers there announced that they had created a material that stayed colder than its surroundings in direct sunlight1. Two members of the team, Shanhui Fan and Aaswath Raman, with colleague Eli Goldstein, founded a start-up firm, SkyCool Systems, and supplied Bisla’s panels. Since then, they and other researchers have made a host of materials, including films, spray paints and treated wood, that stay cool in the heat.