Scientists Create World's Lightest Paint: Just 3 Pounds Covers a Boeing 747

Researchers have created a brand-new heat-repelling paint that is available in any hue and is expected to last for millennia. Additionally, it is the lightest paint ever produced.

This paint, which was inspired by butterfly wings, is not pigment-based. Instead, color is produced fundamentally by how nanocrystals are arranged. It is known as "plasmonic paint" by the crew.

According to their estimates, covering a Boeing 747 would require at least 454 kilograms (1,000 pounds) of normal industrial paint but only 1.4 kilograms (3 pounds) of plasmonic paint.

This implies that it could considerably lower the quantity of greenhouse emissions needed for flying.

To be explicit, this paint has only been developed in the lab, so widespread production of it is still a ways off.

However, using methods that are readily scaled up, the researchers have already produced the paint in a variety of hues, and that is what they will be focusing on next.

Plasmonic paint's ability to reflect the complete infrared spectrum results in less heat being consumed, which is another major driver for bringing it to market.

According to the experts, surfaces painted with the new paint maintain a temperature that is 13 to 16 degrees Celsius (25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than they would if painted with normal commercial paint.

The team that developed the paint was headed by nanoscientist Debashis Chanda from the University of Central Florida. "Over 10% of total electricity in the US goes toward air conditioner usage," he says.

Plasmonic paint claims that the temperature differential it creates will result in substantial energy savings and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from cooling systems, which will help to slow global warming.

Currently, pigment-based paints need particular molecules to create color, and in most contemporary paints, those molecules are made artificially.

Each molecule's electronic characteristics determine how much light is captured and, as a result, which hue the paint will appear. For every new paint hue, a new ingredient is therefore required.

Plasmonic paint, on the other hand, makes use of nanocrystals made of the translucent metals aluminum and aluminum oxide. On top of an oxide-coated metal mirror, they can be arranged in a variety of ways to alter how light is reflected, dispersed, or absorbed.

The vibrant hue of butterfly wings is produced by a similar mechanism.

According to Chanda, "The variety of colors and hues in the natural world [is] astonishing, from vivid flowers, birds, and butterflies to aquatic life like fish and cephalopods."

While [human-made] pigment requires new molecules for each color present, structural color functions as the main method for producing color in a number of highly vivid species, where geometrical organization of usually two colorless materials creates all colors.

The structural color of the paint is what makes it so thin; it achieves complete coloration at a thickness of just 150 nanometers, making it the lightest paint ever.

In this study, the team used an electron beam evaporator, which precisely controls the rate of heating, to produce the structural paint.

Small groups of aluminum nanoparticles can self-assemble thanks to regulated evaporation because the aluminum atoms are more drawn to one another than to the oxide substrate on which they were formed.

The team can produce shapes that reflect various hues by adjusting the pressure and temperature of the electron beam evaporator.

The team notes in their article that this pressure- and temperature-controlled method "critically" guarantees high repeatability over a wide area in a single stage, reducing the cost of production and allowing large-scale manufacturing.

The paint will theoretically last for hundreds of years because the researchers mixed their structural pigment particles with a common binder.

According to Chanda, "Normal color fades because pigment loses its capacity to absorb photons."

We're not constrained by that occurrence here; once we apply structural color, it ought to endure for millennia.

This is not the first novel type of paint to make amazing claims. Many of you have probably heard of Vantablack, one of the world's blackest coatings that can block 99.96% of light.

Because of minuscule carbon nanotubes, which are similar to plasmonic paint in their super-blackness, even blacker pigments have since been produced using the same technique.

Additionally, there is ultra-white paint, which reflects 98.1 percent of all light and is designed to drastically cut down on the need for air cooling. But unlike plasmonic paint, which uses pigments to refract light, Vantablack only comes in one hue at the moment.

However, there is still a long way to go before everyone can create their own plasmonic paint colors and paint an entire home with just one small can.

According to Chanda, "the traditional pigment paint is made in sizable facilities where they can make hundreds of gallons of paint."

"At the moment, it is still expensive to produce at an academic lab unless we go through the scale-up process."

The research has been published in Science Advances.