Project that reimagines roofs in a warming world selected to receive Dean for Research Sustainability of Our Planet funding
A new project that could cool indoor spaces more efficiently and inexpensively than traditional air conditioning has been selected to receive support from the Dean for Research Innovation Fund for the Sustainability of Our Planet.
The fund facilitates research across the natural sciences, engineering and the social sciences focused on mitigating the effects of natural resource exploitation, climate change, and other unsustainable human activities that degrade and pollute Earth. This fund, made possible thanks to the vision and generosity of John McDonnell, Class of 1960, prioritizes high-impact solutions that can make a tangible difference in near- and medium-term timeframes.
Jyotirmoy Mandal, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, will team with Forrest Meggers, associate professor of architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, to develop an energy-efficient method of indoor cooling that prevents solar heat from entering a building, while allowing heat to be radiated to the atmosphere.
As global temperatures rise due to climate change, the use of air conditioning is becoming more common, placing demands on global energy use. This has made it difficult to adjust to rising temperatures in a sustainable manner.
The new design will use commonly available polymers that can manipulate light in a way that allows for only certain wavelengths to be reflected, absorbed or transmitted. The materials — known as long-wavelength infrared polymeric optical metamaterials — will help in regulating temperature and energy transfer in both indoor and open spaces.
The roof design will be combined with interior radiative cooling systems that manage the exchange of heat between humans and surfaces in a room. The project will unite concepts of radiative heat transfer and optical design to create a new vision of roofs for a sustainable environment.