White Hot: New Ultrawhite Paint Aims to Cool Down Urban Heat Islands
Emily Pollock posted on March 08, 2019 |
UNStudio and Monopol Colors showcase their reflective white fluoropolymer paint (left) next to the more traditional Traffic White (right). (Image courtesy of UNStudio and Monopol Colors.)
UNStudio and Monopol Colors showcase their reflective white fluoropolymer paint (left) next to the more traditional Traffic White (right). (Image courtesy of UNStudio and Monopol Colors.)

A Dutch architecture company and a Swiss paint manufacturer have teamed up to create a white paint that’s significantly more reflective than anything on the market. The team hopes the paint will help to cool down buildings, making them more livable in an increasingly warm world.

Total Solar Reflectance (TSR) is a measure of the percentage of the sun’s rays that a material reflects rather than absorbing. Dark colors typically have a TSR of between 15 and 35, while white materials have a TSR of around 70 to 75. UNStudio and Monopol Colors cocreated a new paint called “The Coolest White,” which they say has a TSR of over 80.

According to both companies, the paint is based on fluoropolymer technology: polymers whose multiple carbon–fluorine bonds make them nonstick and friction-reducing. Fluoropolymer coatings are favored for hard-wearing surfaces because they’re corrosion-resistant and electrically nonconductive, and can withstand high temperatures. The team says that the paint is designed to be used on outer surfaces like aluminum, steel or fibreglass, and that features like improved abrasion resistance and weather ability mean it will last “up to 30 years longer.”

The team’s end goal is to sink the “urban heat island”:due partly to dark materials like concrete and cement absorbing light, cities tend to be hotter than the rural areas around them. While it’s unclear how much the urban heat island actually contributes to global climate change (as different lines of research have found different results), the researchers hope that the paint will at least make cities more livable.

"With The Coolest White, we have less heat absorption in the city, and we have better room climate, so we need less energy for air conditioning. So, what we are doing with The Coolest White is that we are cooling down a complete city," Tim Kröger, head of laboratory at Monopol Colors, told Dezeen. "The scale of impact will be at the urban scale.”


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