Guardrails could soon have a new kind of rooftop technology to protect, as scientists at Stanford School of Engineering have developed a new material that, to most people, is likely to look like a kind of solar panel.
While ordinary solar panels absorb energy from the sun and turn it into electricity, however, this new material reflects sunlight back out – not just into the Earth’s atmosphere, but beyond and into the cold of space.
Professor of electrical engineering Shanhui Fan explains: “”People usually see space as a source of heat from the sun but, away from the sun, outer space is really a cold, cold place.””
Getting heat from the Earth out into space is therefore a potential means of tackling global warming – but to escape the atmosphere, it must be radiated out at a very specific frequency.
The scientists claim that their new material is able to do this, allowing heat to be lost from rooftops not only at night, but even while the sun is shining directly on to them.
As a passive technology, no power supply is needed to the rooftop materials; however, it is likely that access will be needed for cleaning and maintenance, with engineers protected during such tasks by guardrails to serve as rooftop edge protection.