When choosing the best insulation for your application, it is important to ensure that it closely fits the dimensions of the components it is meant to insulate to maximize coverage and insulate against heat loss.
It is equally critical to have a thorough understanding of the insulating material. The correct insulating material helps to ensure optimal equipment operation and protects personnel and sensitive equipment from dangerously hot surfaces and excessively hot air temperatures.
At Firwin Corporation, we specialize in finding the best insulation materials and designs for your specialized equipment and unique applications. Our comprehensive selection of insulation materials ensures that we will find the perfect insulation solution for your needs. One of Firwin’s most versatile insulating materials is Aerogel, a porous, solid material with a high percentage of air and a variety of unique properties.
What is Aerogel?
Aerogel is a class of low-density solid gels in which the liquid has been replaced with air or gas. The structural framework of Aerogel is typically composed of silica, so silica aerogel is often referred to as simply “Aerogel.” However, other structural materials have been used to create aerogels, including:
- Iron oxide
- Organic polymers
Regardless of the material, the preponderance of air in an Aerogel’s structure gives it a nearly transparent appearance. The high gas content of Aerogels also gives them a variety of unique properties, including extremely low density, very low thermal conductivity, and very high porosity.
In insulation applications, Aerogel easily outperforms traditional fillers such as wool and fiberglass. In fact, Aerogel offers the same quality insulation with 1/3 the thickness of other insulating materials. However, Aerogel is expensive to manufacture and is rigid and brittle in its basic form, so it requires some supporting material. In addition, Aerogel withstands temperatures up to 1100 °F (593 °C), but is not suitable for extremely high-temperature applications that operate above that level.
Aerogel Insulation Benefits
Silica Aerogel is particularly useful for insulating applications and is one of the most effective insulators available. Although it is more expensive than other insulating materials, Aerogel makes up for its cost by the benefits it offers. Some of these include:
- Achieving greater temperature reduction with less insulation volume.
- Thinner blankets mean easier installation and removal for maintenance and repairs, thereby reducing time and expenses.
- When used as a thermal insulation material, Aerogel helps to enhance equipment energy efficiency, thereby reducing energy costs and emissions.
- Aerogel is especially valued for its extremely low thermal conductivity, which can be as low as 0.015 W m-1 K-1.
- Aerogel is extremely water repellent. Its hydrophobic nature allows Aerogel to protect insulating and operating components from moisture damage and corrosion.
- Aerogel retains its shape in high-temperature settings and does not crack, clump, or sag like other insulating materials. It withstands vibration, impacts, and frequent traffic well, and can be reused after a thorough inspection.
- Exceptional durability gives Aerogel a longer service life, which makes it an increasingly cost-effective option over time.
Aerogel Insulation Applications
Aerogel has been used as an insulating material for decades. Most notably, it has been used in NASA spacesuits for its exceptionally lightweight and durable nature. As manufacturing technology advances, Aerogel has become increasingly desirable in a broad range of insulating applications, including:
- High-temp. With its ability to insulate higher temperatures with a thinner layer, Aerogel is particularly useful for high-temperature applications.
- Limited space. Aerogel is ideal for compact environments where space is at a premium.
- Lightweight. The lightweight nature of Aerogel makes it perfect for use with extremely delicate and fragile components.
- Marine/high humidity. Aerogel’s hydrophobic characteristics make it useful in applications where moisture or water exposure can cause corrosion to underlying components.
Although Aerogel is typically more expensive than other insulating materials, its enhanced thermal insulating properties with thinner layers make it uniquely suited for confined spaces. In addition, its extremely lightweight characteristics make it ideal for use on light and breakable components that could be damaged by the weight of more traditional insulating materials.
Firwin Corporation is pleased to offer a broad range of top quality insulation solutions that can be tailored to meet the particular needs of nearly any application. Our insulation products are found in myriad applications and industries, from industrial and manufacturing equipment to engines and exhaust systems. Download our eBook “Removable Insulation Blanket Materials — A Guide from A to Z“ for more information on selecting the best insulation blankets and materials for your facility.