Tech News

Forget Vantablack, this ultra-white paint is the brightest ever

The whitest paint ever created is being shown off with glaring results, and could one day help significantly reduce cooling costs for cities in extreme climates. The ultra-white paint is the handiwork of a team of engineers at Purdue University, and reflects a huge 98.1-percent of sunlight – enough, in some conditions, to actually cool surfaces below ambient conditions.

Typically, “heat rejecting” paints that are billed as helping reduce the degree of air conditioning buildings require in order to remain comfortable inside don’t actually cool the building. Rather, they focus on preventing them from heating up passively, by reflecting large amounts of the energy from the sun.

This Purdue paint, however, goes further than that. In tests with infrared cameras and boards treated with the ultra-white paint, they showed that the sections it covered were actually lower in temperature than the surrounding conditions. That’s because it not only reflects visible light, but infrared heat too.

The team behind it is no stranger to making exceptionally white paint. In fact, they made headlines last year with a previous iteration, which at the time could reflect 95.5-percent of sunlight.

We’re not talking a small degree of cooling, either. Obviously the paint would have to be applied to a considerable area of the building, but if that could be done then the potential upside to power use is considerable.

“If you were to use this paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet, we estimate that you could get a cooling power of 10 kilowatts,” Xiulin Ruan, a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering, explains. “That’s more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most houses.”

It’s not the first attempt to go to extremes with paint, of course, though arguably its finishes at the opposite end of the scale which are more notorious. Vantablack, for example, is one of the darkest materials known, capable of absorbing up to 99.965-percent of visible light. However it’s not so much a paint as a chemical vapor deposition process, where tiny vertical tubes – that each capture light rather than reflecting it – are effectively “grown” on a substrate.

This ultra-white paint is different, however. Two factors combine to produce the finish, firstly the high concentration of barium sulfate, which was found to be highly reflective. The individual particle of barium sulfate, meanwhile, are different sizes. “How much each particle scatters light depends on its size,” the researchers explain, “so a wider range of particle sizes allows the paint to scatter more of the light spectrum from the sun.”

While there are obviously potential benefits here for buildings in hot conditions, the paint also works even in low temperature environments. At night, for example, the surfaces treated were up to 19-degrees Fahrenheit cooler than their ambient surroundings. In an outdoor test with wintery conditions of 43 degrees Fahrenheit, the paint lowered the treated surface by 18 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the ambient.

Importantly, the technique used to create the paint is compatible with existing commercial paint production, the Purdue team says. It “can potentially handle outdoor conditions” like commercial paint too, they claim. Attempts to make it even more white will take its toll on that factor, however, since more particle concentration leads to greater breaking and peeling.

A paper on the formulation has been published today, and the paint is currently going through the patent process ahead of possible commercialization.

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Google’s latest AI tool turns your MS Paint doodles into freakish monsters

To quote Google CEO Sundar Pichai: AI is “more profound than fire or electricity.”

To back up this claim with incontrovertible evidence: here’s an AI tool made by Google researchers that turns doodles into weird monsters. What could be more profound?

It’s certainly fun, anyway. The tool is called Chimera Painter and uses machine learning to generate imagery based on users’ rough sketches. This sort of dynamic is becoming a relatively common one in machine learning. Nvidia has done it with landscapes before; MIT and IBM did it with buildings; and now Google is … doing it with monsters.

The team behind Chimera Painter explained their methods and motivations in a blog post, saying the idea was to create a “paintbrush that acted less like a tool and more like an assistant.” Chimera Painter is just a prototype, but if software like this becomes common it could “reduce the amount of time necessary to create high-quality art,” claim the team.

The fantasy card game prototype imagined by Google’s AI researchers.
Image: Google

The researchers gave themselves the challenge of creating artwork for a fictional fantasy card game, in which players combine features from different monsters and battle them like mutating Pokémon. They trained a machine learning model on a database of more than 10,000 sample monsters, which were themselves in part procedurally generated using 3D models rendered in Unreal Engine. Each image is paired with a “segmentation map” — an overlay that divides the monsters into anatomical parts like claws, snouts, legs, and so on.

Once the model has been trained on this data, users can then paint their own segmentation map which is then rendered using photorealistic textures. If you load up Chimera Painter you can see some of the preset monsters and they’re impressively cohesive. However, painting one yourself takes more time and effort than you might think. Our attempt below, for example, looks like a knock-off Gruffalo depicted using mud. It’s monstrous, but not necessarily a monster.

Not quite the stuff of nightmares.

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Tech News

Galaxy A52 and A72 leaks paint an encouraging picture

Samsung’s premier premium smartphone for early 2021 is already out and it’s time to give its other models, particularly those for lower tiers, their time under the spotlight. It seems that that time will be coming soon if the steady flow of leaks for the Galaxy A52 and Galaxy A72 is any indicator. These phones will undoubtedly be mid-range but it seems that Samsung has prepared some features that could make the phones more enticing beyond just their accessible price tags.

The Galaxy A52 was already leaked in its entirety, revealing all the specs and even the design of the phone. Now the phone has been spotted in alleged hands-on photos, confirming the matte finish on its back and four cameras in a smaller camera bump. The tipster also confirmed the IP67 dust and water resistance rating of the phone as well as the 64MP main camera.

Perhaps more interesting are the details surrounding the Galaxy A72. Although the Snapdragon 720G on 4G LTE model may sound a bit disappointing, the rest of the specs, do sound a bit hopeful. More importantly, however, the phone also brings a few features that have never before been seen in the Galaxy A series.

It is, for example, the first in its tier to be given Samsung’s “Space Zoom” feature, though only up to 30x zoom. It is also the first to feature dual stereo speakers, utilizing the top earpiece as the second audio output.

Both the Galaxy A52 and Galaxy A72 also appeared early on Samsung UAE’s website, confirming the appearance and specs of the phones. It could hint that the two are just around the corner but the actual launch date might not be until later this month or early April at the latest.

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