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Father and Son Team Develop Temperature-Reducing Paint

Father and Son Team Develop Temperature-Reducing Paint
22 May 2023

A paint formula that can reduce surface temperature by up to 64°C compared to a black surface has been developed by a British father and son team.

Engineers Howard and Robert Atkin began working on the new paint during the COVID lockdown. After they reconnected with University of Leeds Professor Gin Jose, they pitched their paint cooling idea before securing grant funding to underpin the project.

Howard Atkin said: “The lockdown enforced during the global pandemic was a bizarre and bewildering experience. However, it also created a kind of ‘global’ pause for thought. As everything ground to a halt, I think we all felt the fragility of human existence. It was a sobering moment, compounded by a growing sense of doom around the current climate crisis. Necessity is often the mother of invention, and with this backdrop we felt compelled to develop a solution specifically geared towards protecting our planet and creating a better future for our children and grandchildren.

US-based Venture Accelerator firm Apater Labs is helping to bring the paint formulas to market under the newly launched enterprise Pirta Ltd, headquartered in Harrogate, UK. Pirta has received support from UK government-backed authorities, investment arms and innovation accelerators including Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, Innovate UK Edge and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI).


"Necessity is often the mother of invention, and with this backdrop we felt compelled to develop a solution specifically geared towards protecting our planet and creating a better future for our children and grandchildren.

– Howard Atkin

Sustainability Director, Pirta



Cooling Paint Reduces Surface Temperature by up to 64°C


Initial field tests conducted at the University of Leeds indicated that the formula had exceptionally high emissivity, or ability to release heat, with the provisional results reaching 0.998 on a scale of 0-1. The paint formula can reduce surface temperature by up to 64°C (114.4°F) compared to a black surface as revealed by its Solar Reflective Index (SRI).  

Most materials have an SRI between 1 and 100, and higher values indicate greater reflectance and emissivity and an improved ability to passively cool a structure. The paint formula’s SRI has been valued at 116.8.

Lab tests showed a peak reflectance of 99.82 per cent across visible and ultraviolet light spectrums. The overall performance was calculated using both reflectivity and emissivity scores, returning a Figure of Merit of 0.934. Once reviewed, these results will be published in a scientific journal.  

Howard continued: “One of our key areas of expertise is insulation, so we started looking at coating systems which could passively cool surfaces. There are plenty of solar reflective paints on the market which reflect light, but few are effective at repelling heat. Despite this, we see lots of examples of passive cooling in nature, so we knew it was possible. The example that we liked was the silkworm. It chooses a leaf from which it will hang by a silk thread, and it then weaves its cocoon. If it happens to be in a place where there’s a lot of sunshine, the structure of the cocoon keeps it cool. We’ve since looked to incorporate elements of biomimicry in our coating systems in order to enhance their passive cooling qualities.”

Pirta CEO Scott Fleming added: “The potential of passive cooling technology is now firmly on the world’s radar. There is a major requirement across industries and continents to offset rising temperatures. With another year of record-breaking temperatures being forecasted in the UK by the Met Office, Pirta is arriving with a simple yet highly effective solution to tackle heat management, in turn helping reduce energy consumption and emissions.”

Picture: a photograph of Howard (left) and Robert Atkin. Image Credit: Pirta

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 22 May 2023


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