Three low-energy innovations to keep out the heat help scientists ship snowmen to Bahrain, chill beer with nanoparticles, and bring vaccines to developing areas.


Physicists led by Geoff Smith of the University of Technology– Sydney have created a coating that allows heat to escape all the way into space. When an object radiates heat, some of it bounces off nearby molecules in the air, ending up right back on the object itself.

The new silicon carbide and silicon dioxide nanoparticle coating is specially tuned to release heat radiation in wavelengths of between 7.9 and 13 micrometers, which are the least likely to interact with atmospheric gases and bounce back. Although the scientists originally developed the technology for roofing materials, they also made a small nanoparticle-coated container that can chill a can of beer, power-free.


The British company True Energy recently used a phase-change material to make a refrigerator that can stay cold for 10 days without power. Phase-change materials can absorb an exceptional amount of heat as they change from solid to liquid or liquid to gas. The fridge contains a proprietary phase-change material that regulates the temperature to 41ºF, an environment perfect for vaccines. Nonprofit organizations have already started using the fridge in developing nations, where power can be unreliable.


Panasonic’s U-Vacua vacuum-sealed insulation panels stop heat flow 20 times as well as the same amount of polyurethane foam. The panels lack air, which is a good conveyor of heat, and have applications in refrigeration and construction. This winter, Panasonic demonstrated the technology’s capabilities by loading a snowman into a U-Vacua-insulated cardboard box and sending it on a 40-hour, 5,000-mile journey from Japan to the deserts of Bahrain. The snowman survived the journey and arrived fully frozen.