The “World’s Whitest Paint” Just Won a SXSW Innovation Award

Updated: Dec. 13, 2023

Climate change is a growing concern, and that's why a team of researchers from Purdue University developed the world's whitest paint.

Since 1981, the combined land and water temperature of our planet has risen by an average of 0.32 degrees per decade, and that’s one reason scientists around the world are on a continuous hunt for energy-saving innovations. A team of researchers at Purdue University has developed an award-winning product with the potential to decrease electricity use enough to solve global warming. So what is the miraculous invention? Believe it or not, it’s paint. But not just any paint—this stuff holds the official Guinness world record for being the whitest paint on Earth.

What Is “The World’s Whitest Paint”?

The world’s whitest paint is a paint that is so white that it reflects 98.1% of the sun’s energy away, causing much less heat absorption than normal paints, and cooler temperatures beneath the painted surface. Developed by mechanical engineering professor Xiulin Ruan along with a team of researchers out of Purdue University, the paint reduces interior temperatures by as much as 8 to 10 degrees compared to the same sort of space coated with regular paint.

What Sort of Award Did This Paint Win?

Sxsw Worlds Whitest Paint Presentation By Ruan Courtesy Christy Mccarter Purdue UniversityChristy McCarter/Courtesy Purdue University
Professor Xiulin Ruan presents to SXSW attendees in Austin, Texas during the Innovation Awards Finalist Showcase. (Purdue University/Christy McCarter)

The paint developed by Ruan and his team has won the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals (SXSW) 2023 Innovation Award in the sustainability category. The award honors the most exciting creative innovations around the world.

How Does “The World’s Whitest Paint” Work?

Unlike standard paints, the world’s whitest paint hardly absorbs any of the sun’s heat. This leads to much cooler surfaces and less need for air conditioning. First developed in 2021 based on to research dating back to the 1970s, the paint’s whiteness is largely due to high concentrations of barium sulfate. Testing the paint on a 1,000-square-foot roof area, Ruan and his team found it provided 10 kilowatts of cooling power—more energy than most home air conditioners use.

Since inventing the paint, Ruan’s team has tweaked the original formula to change the paint’s thickness from 0.4 millimeters down to just 0.15. The change also reduced the paint’s weight by 80%.