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UW Researcher Part of Widely Hailed Energy Report

February 17, 2017
Gang Tan
UW Associate Professor of Civil and Architectural Engineering Gang Tan

The landscape of energy technology could soon be vastly improved thanks to the work of a University of Wyoming researcher.
UW Associate Professor of Civil and Architectural Engineering Gang Tan was part of a research team that developed a cost-effective and eco-friendly method of cooling without energy and water consumption, even under direct sunlight. Although the project was led by the University of Colorado, Tan was the co-author of the paper, “Scalable-manufactured randomized glass-polymer hybrid metamaterial for daytime radiative cooling”, published in the journal of Science. This work was immediately reported by publications such as The Economist, Forbes, Scientific American, and Energy & Environment News, along with other outlets.
The method involves using the installation of a transparent polymer film featuring miniature glass particles. Coated with silver, the material reflects incoming solar energy back into space while simultaneously allowing the structure underneath to shed heat in the form of infrared thermal radiation. The material has been shown to cool whatever it sits on by as much as 10-15 degree Celsius (or 18-27 degrees Fahrenheit). Additionally, Tan believes that just 10-20 square meters of this material on a rooftop could effectively cool down a single-family house in summer.
Facilities like power plants and data centers generate enormous amounts of heat from energy. The method proposed by this research team removes the challenges employed by current cooling methods, which require energy and resources to carry heat away. Radiative cooling draws on Earth’s natural method of cooling itself, taking heat from surfaces and pushing it into space as infrared radiation. Because the material is relatively inexpensive and can be mass produced, applications include passively cooling buildings and electronics like solar cells, which work more efficiently at lower temperatures.
“I was very excited and proud to develop a breakthrough and transformative technology for real-world applications,” Tan says.
The project was funded with $3 million from the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (DOE ARPA-E) in 2015, awarded to Professors Ronggui Yang and Xiaobo Yin of CU-Boulder and Tan. Other members of the research team include Yao Zhai, Yaoguang Ma, Sabrina N. David, Dongliang Zhao (a UW Ph.D. who graduated in 2014) and Runnan Lou.

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