Aerogel Space Age Insulation
Insulation is advancing leaps and bounds from the days of fuzzy pink batting. Nanotechnology is changing the building industry through the invention of Aerogel translucent insulation. Aerogel, also known as Frozen Smoke, is a truly space-age material, with the lowest bulk density of any known porous solid. “It is mostly transparent but feels a bit like Styrofoam to the touch, and it has remarkable thermal insulation properties.” (Treehugger)
Aerogel translucent insulation.
The product is a nanoporous gel that is 99% air. It’s thin, breathable, fireproof, and waterproof, although it allows water vapor to pass through. “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.” (Inhabitat) Aerogel has a low thermal conductivity, which results in an R-value of 10.3 per inch, which is twice as much as rigid foam board. The cost of Aerogel is slowly being brought down to a consumer level, which explains it being only 2 to 4 times the insulation value of foam or fiberglass, as pure Aerogel should have a much higher insulation value. Two companies are currently making Aerogel in user friendly sheets, Aspen Aerogels and Thermablok. The sheets are easy to cut and maneuver with a thinness that allows for much less wasted space than traditional insulation.
True to its name, NASA has used it as insulation for a number of projects including the Mars Rover and space suites. Aerogel holds 15 entries in the Guinness Book of Records, more than any other material. A common demonstration of aerogels is to have a person fire a Bunsen burner below the aerogel while putting a hand on the top side. “If you had a shield of aerogel, you could easily defend yourself from a flamethrower.” (acceleratingfuture.com)