Grantee Research Project Results
EPA's Sustainable Design Competition Winner - Drexel University
MUSIC: “Science Works” theme music
LACAPRA: Welcome to EPA’s “Science Works,” a podcast about how the EPA uses science to meet its mission to protect your health and environment. From “Science Works” at EPA, I’m Véronique LaCapra.
In this podcast, we’ll meet one of the winning teams from this year’s P3 student design competition. P3 stands for people, prosperity and the planet, and students from any U.S. college or university can participate. EPA sponsors the competition to challenge students to work together in interdisciplinary teams, to design and build sustainable technologies that improve quality of life, promote economic development, and protect the environment.
This team from Drexel University in Philadelphia developed a new type of architectural coating, or roof paint. The paint reflects a wide spectrum of light, reducing the amount of heat absorbed by a building. Team member Courtney Reid explains:
REID: “The purpose of our project is to design a cool roof coating that will reflect the infrared region of the solar spectrum. Currently, cool roofs only reflect the visible range, which actually is only a very small part of what causes heat gain in a house.”
LACAPRA: Reid says existing cool roof coatings reflect visible light using a pigment – usually titanium dioxide. To make a coating that could reflect infrared light, the Drexel team incorporated “glass hollow microspheres” into their roof paint. Reid describes the microspheres as tiny hollow glass beads:
REID: “So if you can imagine a glass Christmas bulb that you would put on your tree, imagine that, but so small you can only see it with a microscope.”
LACAPRA: Since reflective roof coatings reduce the amount of heat absorbed by a building, they also reduce the amount of energy needed to cool it.
REID: “So your air conditioning […] will have to work less […] saving you money.”
LACAPRA: Team member Eric Eisele says applying cool roof coatings can also help reduce the “urban heat island effect” – the increase in temperature that happens as vegetation gets replaced by heat-absorbing asphalt and concrete.
EISELE: “Buildings in general heat up. Cool roof coatings in part mitigate that – along with increasing green space, implementation of green roofs, for example – so applying a white cool roof is one way of decreasing the urban heat island effect.”
LACAPRA: I caught up with the Drexel University students again at the P3 awards ceremony, where EPA Acting Science Advisor Kevin Teichman announced the winning teams:
TEICHMAN: “The second P3 award goes to Drexel University for Syntactic Selective Near Infrared Scattering Architectural Coatings.” [APPLAUSE]
LACAPRA: I asked Eric Eisele how it felt to have won.
EISELE: “It’s a relief, I guess [LAUGHS]. Either way we were going to continue the project, and now it’s just a huge relief that we’ll be able to go so much further.”
LACAPRA: Eisele says the next phase of their project will be to field test the cool roof coating, applying it to buildings on the Drexel campus and in nearby neighborhoods of Philadelphia.
You can learn more about their project on our website, at epa.gov/P3.MUSIC: "Science Works” theme music
LACAPRA: Thanks for listening to “Science Works,” a podcast series produced by EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Please check back again soon for our next program, at epa.gov/ncer.