Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Perfect Insulator

PostedJanuary 7, 2018

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LEDE: Much of the world’s energy usage goes toward heating or cooling our buildings.  But that could change if engineers are successful at making the perfect insulator.

Randy Atkins: The heat that warms your home travels, like sound, as waves.

Edwin Thomas: They tend to penetrate everything.  They propagate around, they hit things, they exchange their energy with the walls…

Randy Atkins: …then get released outside says Ned Thomas, engineering dean at Rice University.  So he’s designing material with microscopic openings that precisely match heat wavelengths and cause them to get reflected backwards.  Then…

Edwin Thomas: …you might be able to keep the home pretty warm just with your own internal energy.

Randy Atkins: That’s right, body heat.

Edwin Thomas: Now it’s a matter of figuring out the best set of materials and the best manufacturing processes to do these things…

Randy Atkins: …in a sturdy, cost-effective way.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.