10 Jun 2019 Custom-designed wood could keep homes cool by reflecting sunlight By Andrew Manns
The high-tech material has a natural cooling effect and is eight times stronger than natural wood Photo: University of Maryland
A team of researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park, have invented a special type of engineered wood that might be able to reduce carbon emissions and reduce cooling costs by 60 per cent.
In order to create the material, the scientists soaked basswood in a solution of hydrogen peroxide to strip away its lignin (glue-like polymers that absorb heat and harden plant cells).
The wood was then placed on a hot press to compress its remaining cellulose molecules, creating a product that’s eight times stronger than natural wood.
Since cellulose reflects almost all visible light and absorbs low levels of infrared light, the high-tech wood has a natural cooling effect, helping to dissipate heat all day and night.
In their study, which was published last May in Science, the scientists tested their hypothesis by modelling the “cooling savings of their wood for 16 different U.S. cities”.
Ultimately they found energy savings between 20 and 60 per cent.
According to Tian Li, one of the paper’s authors, the wood could also help to make buildings in dry climes less dependent on air conditioning, which is considered to be a major contributor to global warming.
Recently, The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that cooling energy use had “doubled since 2000”.
The IEA also said it could “more than double between now and 2040 due to increased activity and use of air conditioning”.
Speaking on the study’s findings, Li explained: “The processed wood uses the cold universe as heat sink and releases thermal energy into it via an atmospheric transparency window.
“It is a sustainable material for sustainable energy to combat global warming.”