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Indian researcher in MIT’s prestigious inventors list for cooling tech that works without electricity

Aaswath Raman Stanford University

The world is warming up, and there is a desperate need of cooling technologies that work without power. Thanks to an Indian postdoctoral researcher at the Stanford University, an ultrathin mirror-like silver disk, size of a regular pizza, could be doing just this by passively cooling structures/building by radiating heat into the space.

Aaswath Raman, researcher behind the path-breaking radiative cooling technology which reduces temperature by as much as 5°C without the use of electricity was recently selected as one of inventors in MIT Technology Review’s prestigious list of ‘35 Innovators Under 35.’

The esteemed list includes three other Indians viz-a-viz Rahul Alex Panicker, Saurabh Srivastava, Rohan Paul.

Rahul Panicker, co-founder Embrace Innovations, has been acknowledged for his work in medicine and biotechnology. Saurabh Srivastava has been inducted in the honorable list for a voice and gestural interfaces he has developed, while , Rohan Paul makes the list for his $50 SmartCane for the blind.

Coming back to Aaswath Raman and his passive radiative cooling strategy developed in collaboration with teammates Marc Abou AnomaLinxiao ZhuEden Rephaeli and engineering professor Shanhui Fan. The technology when used on the roof of a building can keep the building 5°C cooler than the surrounding air.

According to Raman the technology could have a considerable impact on global energy consumption, which is largely dependent on energy-involving air-conditioning and refrigeration for cooling.

The photonic radiative cooler is made from combination of seven layers of silicon dioxide and hafnium oxide, and has a thin top layer of silver.

The material works by radiating heat (generated by the structure and by sunlight) away from its surface, reflecting it through the earth’s atmosphere into cold darkness of space. If placed on roof of a building – the materials functions like a mirror to reflect heat and light and avert almost 97% of sunlight from heating up the building.

Interestingly, the radiative cooler sends infrared light away from the building, especially in a manner that light passes through the atmosphere without warming it up and thus does not add to global warming.

This results in the building remaining cooler, almost by up to 5°C (approx. 9°F) than its surroundings.

Raman’s Invention has fetched $3 million in funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy. The money will go into developing the technology, and even seeking commercial viability.

The multilayer, ultrathin material measures just 1.8 microns thick (which is even thinner than the thinnest of aluminum foils you must have used) and courtesy its passive radiative cooling could make off-grid living and cooling a genuine reality. The technology also has potential to minimize the air conditioning and refrigeration costs significantly and ensure the electricity is used for more basic needs in developed/developing countries.

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