A nanotechnology-enabled, ultra-thin (1/4-inch typically) insulation from Aspen Aerogels is said to outperform other insulations by two to eight times. The material reportedly works well where space and volume are at a premium, or a reduction in volume can produce other significant savings. While aerogels have been around since the 1930s, the material is typically brittle, so commercial applications have been hindered. The company claims to have developed a patented nanotechnology that delivers the aerogel in a flexible, blanket format.
The company's aerogels are being tested by major water heater manufacturers that currently use polyurethane (PU) foam. The units typically have fiberglass in the top area, while the PU is around the cylinder. According to the company, the aerogels will provide energy savings by stopping the transfer of heat better than the fiberglass material.
The product can also be used in oven applications where the heat clean cycle generates temperatures up to 1,000 degrees fahrenheit (538 degrees Celcius). Typically, up to 3 inches of various types of insulation are used to keep the outside of the oven to an acceptable temperature. The company's aerogels are said to allow the insulation layer to be thinner, which translates to more usable oven space. The outer dimensions of the ovens are fixed per the industry at an estimated 32 inches wide.
The company says one major refrigerator and freezer manufacturer is testing the material behind the water dispenser area of side-by-side models where PU foam is typically used and is thinner due to the dispensing door. The performance issues the company is addressing are condensation and Energy Star efficiency. The company says the material will increase the door's skin temperature in this area and will decrease the chance of condensation. The aerogels are said to increase the efficiency of the unit by allowing less heat to flow through the insulation. www.aerogel.com
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