Color-Changing Solar Tiles Will Blow Your Mind, Heat Your House

By Boonsri Dickinson | October 9, 2009 2:05 pm

roofU.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu thinks one solution to the energy debate is obvious: turn all the roofs in the U.S. white. It’s true that doing so would result in major energy savings. But even if white roofs became standard tomorrow, it would take 20 years before the energy savings equaled the greenhouse emissions we produce annually.

Plus, not everyone would benefit, particularly in places where it gets so bitterly cold that having white roofs in the winter would cancel the energy savings made in the summertime.

Fortunately, MIT graduates have created a solution: color changing roof tiles that adjust to the temperature of the season. The tiles turn white when it’s hot outside (or when the tile is 80 percent covered by sunlight), and black when it’s cold (or when 30 percent or less is covered by sunlight).

MIT’s Web site reports:

[The tiles] use a common commercial polymer (in one version, one that is commonly used in hair gels) in a water solution. That solution is encapsulated—between layers of glass and plastic in their original prototype, and between flexible plastic layers in their latest version—with a dark layer at the back.

When the temperature is below a certain level (which they can choose by varying the exact formulation), the polymer stays dissolved, and the black backing shows through, absorbing the sun’s heat. But when the temperature climbs, the polymer condenses to form tiny droplets, whose small sizes scatter light and thus produce a white surface, reflecting the sun’s heat.

In the future, color-changing tiles won’t be your only option for reducing energy consumption: You might also be able to grow vegetables on your roof, or even use solar panel shingles to heat your house.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Building an Interstate Highway System for Energy
Discoblog: Monitor Your Daily Energy Use

Image: MIT

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • Sarah

    Fantastic! I do wonder, however, if these tiles will expire as quickly as typical solar panels and need frequent replacement?

  • http://none satish gulani

    great science, great solution,great future.

  • Dr Rajiv S

    ITS AN EXCELLENT JOB…..I THINK YOU SCHOLARS OF MIT DESERVE REALLY THE NOBEL PRIZE AS AT PRESENT SITUATION ITS THE MOST REQUIRED

  • P.J.

    Most solar panels last for 20+ years and carry at least 10 year warranty. I don’t think most current roof materials will typically last that long…

  • Terry

    That is prove that high sun light you can save any stuffs, same as sun light. When the temperature climbs, the polymer condenses to form tiny droplets, whose small sizes scatter light and thus produce a white surface, reflecting the sun’s heat.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Discoblog

Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »