Associate Professor Andrey Miroshnichenko (left) and Dr Mohsen Rahmani demonstrate how the nano-material can reflect or transmit light on demand with temperature control.

A breakthrough material developed by ANU scientists could not only protect astronauts from dangerous infrared radiation and ultraviolet light, it could be used to keep heat in or out of buildings.

The scientists have developed an ultra-thin nano-material film that can be tuned to reflect or allow through light and infrared heat on demand.

While lead researcher Dr Mohsen Rahmani describes the material as being particularly suited to protecting astronauts from harmful UV and infrared radiation, the material can be applied to almost any surface and tuned for the whole spectrum of light, providing for a range of applications back on earth, including in buildings.

The nano-material can reflect or transmit light on demand with temperature control, which opens the door to a wide array of potential applications.

Co-researcher associate professor Andrey Miroshnichenko said tailoring the invention to control visible and infrared light opened to door to energy-saving and other architectural applications.

“For instance, you could have a window that can turn into a mirror in a bathroom on demand, or control the amount of light passing through your house windows in different seasons,” Dr Miroshnichenko said.

“What I love about this invention is that the design involved different research disciplines including physics, materials science and engineering.”

Co-lead researcher Dr Lei Xu said cheap and localised temperature control was another potential outcome.

“Much like your car has a series of parallel resistive wires on the back windscreen to defog the rear view, a similar arrangement could be used with our invention to confine the temperature control to a precise location,” Dr Xu said.

The research, Reversible Thermal Tuning of All-Dielectric Metasurfaces, has been published in journal Advanced Function Materials.