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Researchers used a quantum computer to invent a new cooling material

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Quantum computers will one day help us invent and design new things, from materials and drugs, to entire systems, in seconds thereby rapidly accelerating the rate of global innovation and change.

 

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It might be a slightly boring use of one of the world’s most powerful futuristic computer platforms, but slowly researchers are gradually starting to use quantum computers to design new things – in fractions of a second and millions times faster than they could have done on old supercomputers. And, if you thought that the rate of innovation was quick today then just you wait and see what’s coming. Seven minutes to design a new pandemic vaccine perhaps? Done. I digress, but you hopefully get the point and the potential …

 

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Cooling accounts for about 15 percent of global energy consumption. Conventional clear windows allow the sun to heat up interior spaces, which energy-guzzling air-conditioners must then cool down. But what if a window could help cool the room, use no energy, and preserve the view? A Win-Win-Win?

Well, Tengfei Luo, the Dorini Family Professor of Energy Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and postdoctoral associate Seongmin Kim have devised a transparent coating for windows that does just that.

The coating, or Transparent Radiative Cooler (TRC) material, allows visible light to come in and keeps other heat-producing light out. The researchers estimate that this invention can reduce electric cooling costs by an amazing one-third in hot climates compared to conventional glass windows.

Transparent radiative coolers can be used for buildings and cars to help address climate change challenges. Luo and his team were able to design their best-in-class TRC by using quantum computing combined with machine learning.

 

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The TRC is made up of multiple ultra-thin layers of materials that must be assembled in a precise configuration. By constructing a computational model of the TRC, researchers were able to test each possible configuration of layers in a fraction of a second to identify the optimum combination and order of materials.

Guided by these results, they fabricated the new coating by layering silica, alumina and titanium oxide on a glass base—topping it off with the same polymer used to make contact lenses. The result was a 1.2 micron-thick coating that outperforms all other heat-reducing glass coatings on the market.

“I think the quantum computing strategy is as important as the material itself,” said Luo. “Using this approach, we were able to find the best-in-class material, design a radiative cooler and experimentally prove its cooling effect in seconds.”

 

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Their research was published in ACS Energy Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

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