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John O | June 2019

New wood technology passively cools without the need for electricity or added polymers

By Josh Perry, Editor
[email protected]


University of Maryland (College Park, Md.) researchers have shown a variety of innovations in wood technologies in recent years, including wood that was stronger than metal, wood that had enhanced thermal insulating properties, and even wood batteries, and now they have shown a wood material that cools without adding polymers or applying electricity.


The new wood material provides passive cooling. (University of Maryland/YouTube)


According to a report from the university, “The researchers tested their cooling wood on a farm in Arizona in warm, sunny, and low wind conditions. There, they tested the cooling wood and found that it stayed, on average, five or six degrees cooler than the ambient air temperature – even at the hottest part of the day. It stayed on average 12 degrees cooler than natural wood, which warms up more in the presence of sunlight.”


The technology uses the same internal structures that trees use to carry water to make a strong material that can be used in buildings, while also providing passive cooling.


The research was recently published in Science. The abstract stated:


“Reducing human reliance on energy-inefficient cooling methods such as air conditioning would have a large impact on the global energy landscape. By a process of complete delignification and densification of wood, we developed a structural material with a mechanical strength of 404.3 megapascals, more than eight times that of natural wood.


“The cellulose nanofibers in our engineered material backscatter solar radiation and emit strongly in mid-infrared wavelengths, resulting in continuous subambient cooling during both day and night. We model the potential impact of our cooling wood and find energy savings between 20 and 60%, which is most pronounced in hot and dry climates.”


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