Ultra-Thin Super Insulation with Aerogel

Aspen-aerogel-insulation

Despite the fact that we are now living in the 21st century, aerogel insulation seems like a material out of science-fiction. It is the lightest solid known, although by volume it is 99% air. It is breathable, but it doesn't absorb water. It is incredibly strong for its weight. But most importantly, it is a fantastic insulator.

Some specialty insulation companies are now producing aerogel products that can be used for building insulation, although the largest market for the material is still in industry. Aerogel insulation is also exciting because it provides good benefit with a thin profile. For instance, shipping-containers, which have a narrow width to begin with, can be insulated without giving up too much valuable space to attaching insulation to the walls.

A couple products are now available on the market, although their use is still constrained because of the relatively high cost of the material. Aspen Aerogels makes an aerogel blanket called Spaceloft, and Thermablok produces narrow strips of aerogel that may be a more cost-effective way of utilizing aerogel insulation without breaking the bank.

Aerogel is such a good insulator that a blowtorch on one side cannot light a match on the opposite side. While that is an extreme case, it demonstrates the effectiveness of the material. (And if you are a numbers geek, a typical aerogel insulation blanket has a thermal conductivity of 0.091 BTU-in/hr-sq.ft.-F at an ambient temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, corresponding to an R-value of more than R-10 per inch. That's nearly double the insulation value of the best rigid insulation boards currently available.)

Aspen-aerogel-heatshield Aspen-aerogel-squares

Aspen Aerogels' Spaceloft Insulation, is a 57-inch wide roll of aerogel material available in 0.20 in. and 0.40 in. thickness. Spaceloft is a useful product for insulating existing walls in retrofit situations where it is important to minimize the amount of floor area lost to building up wall insulation. An old brick building can be a beautiful thing, but brick makes a poor insulator. Instead of building a new insulated wall against the existing wall that would be 4" thick (or more), a Spaceloft blanket covered by drywall can achieve similar energy-efficiency in a wall covering that is less than an inch thick.

According to Martin LaMonica of CNET, Spaceloft blankets have been used by the Rhode Island Housing Authority to retrofit a 50-unit housing complex that was built with no insulation in the 1940s.

Thermablok-aerogel-insulation Thermablok-aerogel-insulation2

Thermablok manufactures aerogel in 1-1/2" wide strips rather than broad sheets. In stud wall construction, the cavity between the studs is filled with insulation, but the studs themselves can conduct heat and cold, a process known as "thermal bridging," which reduces the thermal performance of the wall. By covering the studs with strips of aerogel insulation before the interior drywall or exterior sheathing is applied, the thermal bridging is broken, and the thermal performance of the wall can increase by 30% or more. This can be an efficient use of aerogel material in a cost-effective way.

Thermablok strips can be installed on the exterior of the studs during new construction, or can be applied on the interior during remodeling as well as new construction. This makes it suitable for energy efficiency retrofits. As with Spaceloft blankets, because Thermablok is so thin (about 1/4" once installed), it can be used to improve performance without taking away great amounts of space from inside the building.

Team-cali-solar-decathlon-2009

Thermablok strips have been used in the Solar Decathlon house from the California College of the Arts and the University of Santa Clara, California (also known as the Refract House shown above). Suggested retail price for Thermablok tape is $1.99/ft.

Photo credits: Thermablok, Aspen Aerogels, DOE.


Article tags:
  • Name

    Does this material have any sound-insulation properties?

    • rhobere

      no not really.

  • uldics

    Aerogel is indeed extremely water absorbing!!!

    • Haddonuff

      I’ve heard it depends on the type of aerogel and the properties that you manufacture into it. Some aerogels are used for chemical spill clean-up for just this reason.

      • Costreet

        So, which one is water-resistant? What would you recommend for use around a soft sided pool outside, for example?

        • Edgar Wind

           I am interested in using the product to insualte an above ground alberca style pool

        • rhobere

          Even if the aerogel itself is hydrophobic, you won’t be able to purchase anything, but fiber composite blankets. That fiber, is NOT going to stand up to being soaked and dried without both molding and deteriorating. Some companies sell weather-proof stuff, but you’re still at the mercy of installation.

    • rhobere

      Aerogel used for insulation is absolutely hydrophobic. Its chemically treated to get that effect. I have a roll sitting at work and when you get the dust on your hands, you can’t even get your hands wet to wash it off. Its ridiculous how hydrophobic it is.

  • Nonie McD

    Can you make quilts from the stuff?

    • Anthonybyork

      I wouldn’t make quilts from aerogel, but SEAgel is a safer product which is being used in jackets that I believe would be better.

    • rhobere

      Its incredibly dusty and itchy as hell, but you could. But to give you an idea, hikers gave aerogel jackets a test run by hiking Mt. Everest and they over-heated.

  • 179iQhireme

    Needs to come down in price, to be used everywhere for the betterment of all.

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  • Dawsontm

    Price of the spaceloft is still a big mystery, apparently. Disappointed.

    • rhobere

      god forbid you have to contact a distributor for a quote like you do with pretty much any industrial-market material.

  • Concerned Citizen

    What hype! Aerogel has been around for several years and they still have not brought the price down? Sounds more like corporate greed. NASA developed it and it does not look like the private sector wants to share it. ArpaE should be investing in research to develop cheaper manufacturing methods of this type of product and get it out there. The US should be in the forefront of green technology race instead of chasing others.

    • Highlander2056

       How much does this cost?

  • Nbailey

    WHERE CAN YOU BUY THIS IN CONNECTCUT?

    • Bartonman

      I have 21000 square feet of the Aerogel Spaceloft if you are interested in some. bartonman@gmail.com

      • sean

        how much is it?

      • jzinger

        Is it still available? We are in NYC and I’d like to know how much you’re willing to let it go for!

  • Nbailey

    WHERE DO YOU BUY IT?

  • Belltocher

    This stuff would bring a stop to the energy crisis. If any gov was even interested in cutting back on fuel use thay would be all over this stuff. the fact the world has’nt made this stuff as common as paper is proff that are gov’s are run by big bisness . exxon said no sorry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ned-Wulin/521826655 Ned Wulin

    I want 20 minutes of my life back. It is NOT really ”available on the market”.

    How about waiting until it is actually available for sale before publishing misleading Spam articles like this.

    • rhobere

      lol. This stuff has been available to purchase in multiple different configurations for at least 5 years. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to go order it off of Amazon, but you can most definitely buy it.

  • Michael

    can this product be used to insulate an exsisting concrete floor .. under carpet & underlay….can I buy it retail in UK…….and what widths/lengths…and………….cost please. ???.thanks…..Michael

    • YULEC

      bluedec in holland
      they offer blankets 5mm & 10mm thick

    • YULEC

      bluedec in holland
      they offer blankets 5mm & 10mm thick

    • YULEC

      bluedec in holland
      they offer blankets 5mm & 10mm thick

    • YULEC

      bluedec in holland
      they offer blankets 5mm & 10mm thick

  • P7allan.

    Does it have any yet known waste hazards when no longer needed? How does one break it down for recycling? Is it like Nuclear waste/plastics/rubber tires/etc where no one has a solution for storing it when it has outlived it’s usefulness? I am only trying to have information to protect mother earth from more pollution products. Thank you.

  • P7allan.

    Does it have any yet known waste hazards when no longer needed? How does one break it down for recycling? Is it like Nuclear waste/plastics/rubber tires/etc where no one has a solution for storing it when it has outlived it’s usefulness? I am only trying to have information to protect mother earth from more pollution products. Thank you.

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