MIT Team Develops Roof Tile That Changes Color as Temperatures Shift


A group of recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates has developed a roof tile that remains white in summer to reflect the sun’s energy then turns black in winter to absorb the sun’s rays and heat buildings.

The so-called “thermeleon” (rhymes with chameleon) technology uses a common commercial polymer trapped between layers of plastic, including a black layer at the back. When the temperature drops, the white layer disappears, exposing the black layer.

The MIT graduates say the tiles reflect about 80 percent of the sun’s heat when they are white, translating into a 20 percent savings in cooling costs. When the tiles turn dark, they absorb about 70 percent of solar energy.

The MIT team, which last week won a $5,000 prize in the school’s “Making and Designing Materials Engineering Contest,” is now trying to commercialize a version of the tile that can withstand harsh winter conditions. They also are trying to develop a cheaper version of the technology that integrates the polymer solution into paint that could be brushed onto existing black tiles.

Article appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360.

About Author

Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.


  1. Charlotte Siegel on

    I have been searching for just such a solution for 2 years. We have a Classic conservatory sunroom that really needs a new roof. We had a “black plastic” roof, and they replaced it with a white plastic – NOW. am very interested in knowing more about your product, and will share all that I learned during my research (and living with this plastic roof)

    • Charlotte,

      I’m curious to hear more about your research. And, how is the white roof “performing” compared to the old, black one?

  2. This is outstanding. I just read about solar tiles for roofs. This one does not change colors. The color remains the same; instead using solar panels, they use solar tiles. This will be a great commercial item.