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Stanford Sends Heat Into Space To Cool Buildings Without Electricity

By Brian Spaen

As people grind through the dogs days of summer, September gives some relief to much of the United States. It feels good to open up the windows and finally allow fresh air through the house after continuously blasting the air conditioner. Researchers at the University of Stanford have been attempting to build a system that releases a building’s hot air without the aid of a powered cooling source. In simple terms, this means something really exciting: It's increasingly possible to cool buildings without electricity, meaning that keeping cool in the summer could get a whole lot more eco-friendly. And now, recent tests have shown how powerful it’s become.

Stanford originally developed the radiative sky cooling technology back in 2013. The idea was to create a process where buildings could be cooled without the need of an air conditioner. This technology would include a reflector that would transmit sunlight back into space without heating up too much. Doing so would defeat the purpose, of course, as the device would generate heat the building is trying to get rid of.

How does this work, step by step? First, a film is layered on the flat device that reflects 97 percent of the sunlight back into space. At the same time, the system will draw thermal radiation out of the building and pushes it into the Earth’s atmosphere. Even with the sun beaming directly onto a building, this process would have the ability to cool things off without the need of any external power source.