New beetle wing-inspired coating to cool electronics, buildings and more

17 June 2020

Researchers from the University of Texas, Austin, have created a coating based on the beetle’s wing structure.

The coating passively cools, meaning it does not take up energy like the systems we use to keep temperatures down in our cars and buildings.

The team found that its film reduced temperatures of items in direct sunlight by as much as 5.1 degrees Celsius, more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

The film, which would work as a coating on top of objects, could have a wide array of uses.

It could be put on top of windows in office and apartment buildings to reflect sunlight and keep energy bills down.

It could protect solar panels from being degraded by constant sunlight exposure.

It could be wrapped around cars to keep them cool while parked and it could be a key ingredient in novel cooling fabrics, wearables and personal electronics.

This research focuses on a specific species of the beetle, Neocerambyx Gigas.

It can survive in scorching hot climates near active volcanoes in Thailand and Indonesia, where summer temperatures frequently top 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit), and the ground heats up to 70°C (158°F).

When it gets hot, the beetles remain still and stop foraging to avoid taking on any excess heat from movement.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects a significant jump in air conditioning consumption by 2050 — a 59% growth in the residential sector and a 17% increase in commercial use.

As the need for more cooling rises, so does the necessity for a new solution that does not consume mass amounts of energy or put a strain on the environment.

Going forward, the research team is working to further optimise the manufacturing process for large-scale production.

They will also seek commercialisation opportunities in several areas, including energy-efficient buildings, water cooling systems, thermal fabrics, desert dew water harvesting devices and supplemental cooling systems for power plants.

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