World’s Whitest Paint Can Cool the World, One Plane, Train and Automobile at a Time

Designed to make surfaces more reflective, the new super-white paint may benefit the planet, but will also require some serious cleaning.

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A photo of a white Rolls Royce with dirt on it.
Dirty already.
Photo: Martyn Lucy (Getty Images)

Some planes, trains and automobiles look great in white. A white Countach is a majestic sight, the gleaming Shinkansen trains of Japan look great and even more modest creations like the Polestar 2 are chic when finished in the pearlescent white. But anyone opting for a white finish knows that they’re going to struggle to keep it clean.

So, imagine how body shops up and down the country are feeling now that the world’s whitest paint has been updated with a new formula that means it can be used on things like planes and cars.


The paint in question has been developed by a team of scientists, including engineers at Purdue University. In its first form, the paint could reflect around 98% of incoming sunlight thanks to the inclusion of barium sulfate. This paint could be used on buildings and large structures to keep them cool by reflecting sunlight.

An image of the two different paint samples under a microscope.
The new paint is 2.7 times thinner than the original formula.
Image: Perdue University

Now, New Atlas reports that the engineers have developed a new recipe for the paint, which can be applied in layers that are almost three-times thinner than the original compound.

The new paint comprises boron nitride in hexagonal nanoplatelet form, which allows it to reflect 97.9 percent of the light that hits it. Sure, that’s a smidge lower than the original, but this new iteration also “weighs around 80 percent less” thanks to its much lower density.


According to Xiulin Ruan, who developed the paint, the new compound can be used to “help cool surfaces and greatly reduce the need for air conditioning” in things such as planes and trains.

This will help operators save energy and cut costs. On top of this, the engineer said that because the heat is reflected back away from the planet, it “directly cools down our planet.”

A photo of a large white plane on the tarmac at an airport.
The super-white paint could help keep planes cool on the tarmac.
Photo: Hufton+Crow/View Pictures/Universal Images Group (Getty Images)

In a statement, George Chiu, a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering, said: “Now this paint has the potential to cool the exteriors of airplanes, cars or trains. An airplane sitting on the tarmac on a hot summer day won’t have to run its air conditioning as hard to cool the inside, saving large amounts of energy. Spacecraft also have to be as light as possible, and this paint can be a part of that.”


There’s been some pretty exciting innovation around white paint in recent years. A pilot project in South America investigated whether painting the tops of mountains white could help preserve permafrost. Meanwhile, white paint used on the roofs of buildings has also helped reduce the strain on air conditioning systems and reflect heat back into space.

This new lightweight, ultra-reflective paint could soon bring similar results to the automotive and aerospace industries. Well, provided you can keep that gleaming finish clean.