October 22 2007


Aerogel Brick_Image 01

Aerogel, mentioned several times this week during the Solar Decathlon, is a thermal insulator that is also lightweight and strong (as can be seen in the above photo). Aerogel is basically a foam comprised of super-porous silicon that is 99% air! Aerogel's ability to trap such a large quantity of air within its pores means that it is a tremendous insulator based on volume and density. Because the air is trapped in pores, it cannot circulate and spread thermal energy through the material. The process of heat transfer across Aerogel therefore becomes very slow and that makes for a great insulator!

Aerogel is currently made for the mass market by Cabot Corporation under the name Nanogel. Cabot has several industry partners including Kalwall, Alcaud, and Pilkington (among many others) and is used in a variety of products.

It is important to note that just like fiberglass insulation or asbestos, aerogel is made from microsopic silica which can be dislodged and find their way to human skin, lungs, etc. For that reason aerogel is never marketed alone as a product and is usually found in one of the "industry partners" systems. Kalwall, for instance, encapsulates the product into it's wall systems which then makes the product absolutely safe for handling.

This product has the potential to substantially alter the ways architects and engineers deal with building insulation. It will be interesting to watch the transition away from opaque, thickened thermal mass walls to something as light and delicate as aerogel. I wonder if the architecture produced will be able to make inhabitants feel comfortable in ways that traditional architecture does?

For more information please visit the Cabot Corp Web site.

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October 20th, 2009 at 11:43 PM

Greenline » Thermablok Insulation Strips ? Another Tool in the Arsenal Against Thermal Bridging

[...] steel framing members called Thermablok. The website describes the material as “a flexible aerogel and fiber composite insulation with the lowest thermal conductivity of any building insulation [...]