The world’s whitest paint, developed by Purdue University researchers and recognized in Guinness World Records, has been named winner of the 2023 Innovation Award in the sustainability category by South by Southwest Conference and Festivals (SXSW).

The award “recognizes the most exciting creative developments in the connected world,” and was presented to Purdue on March 13, 2023, at the 25th annual SXSW Innovation Awards Ceremony in Austin, Texas. Purdue was chosen in the sustainability category from among four finalists that included Purdue; Atarraya: Sustainable Shrimp-Farming Tech; The Trees of the Future; and Nature's Fynd: Fy Protein.

The paint, developed by Purdue professor of mechanical engineering Xiulin Ruan, is fighting global warming by keeping surfaces cool enough to reduce the need for internal air conditioning. SXSW is the latest to recognize the innovation, which was previously featured on PBS NewsHour and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Earlier this month, the paint was named winner of the 2023 Gizmodo Science Fair.

In 2022 Ruan and his team innovated further by developing a new formulation of his groundbreaking paint that is now thinner and lighter – ideal for radiating heat away from cars, trains, airplanes, and even spacecraft. According to Ruan and his team’s models, covering 1% of the Earth’s surface in their technology could mitigate the total effects of global warming, a fact encouraging them to continue pursuing formulas suitable for surfaces like asphalt and roadways.

“With this award, we are honored that SXSW joins a growing list of organizations, publications, and states that recognize Purdue University and its world-changing researchers are delivering practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges,” said R. Ethan Braden, executive vice president, chief marketing and communications officer for Purdue University and Purdue Global. “Whether it’s the world’s whitest paint to combat global warming or the workforce needed to onshore semiconductor production in the United States, Boilermakers are delivering innovative giant leaps again and again.” 

Ruan and his team of researchers are currently working with the Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization for commercialization. According to Ruan, “We are in discussions right now to commercialize it. There are still a few issues that need to be addressed, but progress is being made.” Ruan says the cost and production process is expected to be similar to commercial paint, which they’ve kept in mind from the beginning so that it would be accessible when it’s ready for market.

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