Wood panels that cool the house without electricity: goodbye air conditioning?

An innovative wood-based material that promises to refresh our homes in an absolutely ecological and sustainable way. University of Maryland and University of Colorado, in the United States, are working on this project. The new technology, still in the testing phase, is based on the principle of reflection of infrared radiation coming from the sun. These wood panels would be able to reflect the sun’s rays and prevent buildings from heating up.

The use of air conditioners to cool the rooms and ensure an always pleasant temperature has increased exponentially in recent years, with a consequent increase in the consumption of electricity and therefore of the environmental impact. It becomes necessary, then, to find an alternative and efficient method to reduce human dependence on cooling systems such as air conditioning and to reduce the global energy impact.

The new material developed in the US is composed of cellulose nanofibers that reflect solar radiation and are able to cool continuously, ensuring a constant temperature during the day and night. Tests conducted so far in 16 US cities have shown energy savings of between 20 and 60%.

Through a process of complete delignification followed by mechanical pressing, the scientists created a resistant, robust and water-repellent material, white in color, able to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, preventing heat from entering them.

In the past, the research team used wood as an alternative material. Studies conducted so far have led to the creation of transparent wood prototypes, low-cost batteries, super-resistant wood, heat-insulating wood and even a wood-based water purifier.

The new project is part of the “green heating” trend that proposes green alternatives to reduce energy consumption. The self-cooling wood can be applied directly on the buildings and manages to keep the rooms cool without electricity or water.

However, if these panels could represent a solution to the global energy crisis, they raise other questions of an ecological nature. The wood industry in general, in fact, isn’t sustainable and the deforestation danger is always around the corner. Deforestation in the Amazon increased by 75% between 2012 and 2015.

If the new cooling panels will represent an alternative to air conditioning it is still to be seen. Meanwhile, with the summer just around the corner, let’s all commit ourselves to an eco-friendly gesture by limiting the use of air conditioners especially where not necessary.