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Low-tech roof tiles made from hair gel could provide one revolutionary solution to climate change.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that hair gel when mixed with water, changes colour depending on the temperature.

The team of students used the technology to create special panels that reflected the suns rays away from Earth when it was hot but absorbed them in chilly weather.Nick Orf PhD '09 demonstrates a prototype Thermeleon roof tile, using a heat gun to warm part of it.

The heated area turns from black to white.The carbon-busting roof slates work by mixing the polymer with water and sealing the substance within two flexible plastic layers against a dark background.When it is cold the polymer remains dissolved and the black backing shows through.

This absorbs the available warmth from the sun, which could be harnessed to heat buildings below.The prototype tile, developed by recent MIT graduates, is designed to turn dark in cold weather and white in warm weatherAs temperatures climb the gel condenses into cloud of tiny droplets, creating a white surface that reflects the suns rays.

The team from the US college is now working on a paint version of the discovery that can simply be sprayed onto dark roofs.Lead scientist Joe Walish said the idea behind the colour-changing roof tiles came when the group was sitting around a lava lamp.'We originally set out to create a lava-lamp type fluid affected by temperature so that black liquid would rise covering the surface in winter and white liquid would rise covering the surface in the summer,' he said. 

'This turned out to be very complicated. However, we knew we could produce gels that would change from clear to white in response to a change in temperature.'These include hair gels that are produced on very large scales, making them inexpensive.' 

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently declared that the world should tackle climate change by painting every roof white.He claimed this simple act would eliminate a whole year's worth of global greenhouse gas emissions within 20 years, but critics pointed out that in northern cities the gains made with white roofs in the summer would be outweighed by energy losses through the winter months.

The students are confident their tiles could one day provide the ideal solution and are planning to develop them into a marketable product.

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