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Xiulin Ruan, a Purdue University professor of mechanical engineering, holds up his lab's sample of the whitest paint on record.
Jared Pike—Purdue University

When the sun shines on a typical white building, the exterior’s paint reflects 80 to 90% of the light. The remainder warms the surrounding area and inflates air-conditioning bills. But a new, whiter paint incorporates chemicals that better scatter UV rays, making it up to 98% reflective and potentially reducing AC needs by as much as 40%. “The heat is reflected into deep space,” says Xiulin Ruan, a professor of mechanical engineering who led the Purdue University team that created the paint. “You keep our cities cooler.” In fall 2022, the team announced the development of a thinner, lighter version that could coat airplanes, cars, and even spaceships.

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