Bridgette Meinhold

Space-age Aerogel Insulation Now Cheaper and Available in Sheets

by , 02/11/10
filed under: Green Materials

building materials, green renovation, energy efficiency, sustainable design, green design, insulation, r-value, aerogel, aerogel insulation, material, aspen aerogels, thermoblok

Insulation may not be sexy, but it is important. Over the past years we’ve seen leaps and bounds towards creating cheaper, thinner, more breathable materials with higher R-values. There still isn’t “one” insulation out there that has all the best characteristics, but Aerogel is one of the top contenders. This space-age material has the lowest bulk density of any known porous solid as well as some incredible insulating qualities, and recently two companies rolled out Aerogel sheets that make installations a breeze.

building materials, green renovation, energy efficiency, sustainable design, green design, insulation, r-value, aerogel, aerogel insulation, material, aspen aerogels, thermoblok

You may think Aerogel was invented by NASA for use in their spacecrafts, but it was actually invented in 1931 by Samuel Stephens Kistler after a bet with his friend. It is made up of a gel that has had its liquid component replaced by air — in fact the material is 99% air. It’s quite thin, breathable, fireproof, doesn’t absorb water, and is very strong considering it doesn’t weigh much. What makes it such a great insulator is its low thermal conductivity (14 mW/m-K) and results in an R-value of 10.3 per inch, which is twice as much as rigid foam board. In fact you can light a blow torch on one side and it won’t burn a hole through it or even get hot enough to light a match sitting on the other side.

Unfortunately the material is still fairly expensive and out of the price range for the average homeowner. NASA has used it as insulation for a number of projects including the Mars Rover and space suites. Two companies currently have a commercial product available – Aspen Aerogel and Thermoblok. Aspen Aerogel offers a roll of the material in 0.2 or 0.4 in thicknesses and 57 inches wide. Thermoblok has 1-1/2″ wide strips, which are used to cover framing studs and help prevent thermal bridging and costs about $1.99/ft.

Aerogel a great material for renovations where size matters, and would make great insulation for shipping containers. Due to its incredible R-value and thin form factor it’s one of the best insulative materials out there, and we hope to see prices come down so that it is more affordable for the general public.

+ Aspen Aerogel

+ Thermoblok

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11 Comments

  1. Jill Fehrenbacher Jill Fehrenbacher February 25, 2013 at 11:01 am

    @jeanmarc and @Arthur L Belge – there are already many companies making aerogel / nanogel insulated windows. Kalwall is one such company, Solera is another:

    http://www.kalwall.com/
    http://advancedglazings.com/nanogel/

    I’ve made a Nanogel window before – Nanogel has no structural stability, so it needs to be sandwiched between plates of glass or plastic. Lots of companies are already making these sorts of products, as is stated in the article above (in fact that is the whole point of the article), but these products are generally pretty expensive.

  2. jeanmarc February 25, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Arthur L. Belge >> Of course they’re working on it, the problem is that aerogel is currently too structurally weak to make a window out of it. Even small vibrations (like from trucks passing by) are enough to break it. But they’re like one or two steps away from it, I’m optimistic.

  3. ARTHUR L BELGE February 4, 2013 at 2:27 am

    Replacing old storm double windows is expensive. Eventually the gas between the window panes leaks out. Why not pump in aero gel. With an R-10.3 per inch R-value your windows could be better insulated than your walls. The aero gel would be invisible to the eye at that thickness. Why isn’t anyone doing this?

  4. pourghazian November 22, 2010 at 3:42 am

    i like know more about aerogel. please if you can send me more information about this kind of silica type. can i invest on one of your project?

  5. kaman July 25, 2010 at 10:46 am

    So….What IS the going price for this insulation per board ft? I often use open cell foam in my remodels at a rate of about $1 bd ft.
    I am often up against trying to get the best R value in limited space in my remodels. Foam gives me about R-7 /inch. Even if the areogel cost more per R there are cases where it can save money.

  6. LUMENHAUS is Pulling Ah... June 25, 2010 at 11:06 am

    [...] close when the home detects hot or incremental weather, but still let natural light in through the aerogel translucent wall panels. The solar array on the roof adjusts its pitch to maximize its solar [...]

  7. 36degrees February 15, 2010 at 5:03 am

    Does anyone know if there are any European firms that offer these products?

  8. prior hunley February 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Has it been used in clothing, cars, or camping equipment?

  9. calvinh February 12, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Hmmm most importantly will it be cheaper than conventional insulation?

  10. bpg131313 bpg131313 February 11, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    I’d love to see this stuff come down in price so that it could be used to insulate homes. Think of the cost savings for heating and cooling.

  11. ct February 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    this is awesome. i’m ordering some for fun….

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