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The Amazing Properties of Aerogels

The Amazing Properties of Aerogels

Imagine holding a gauzy blue block of the lightest solid material on Earth. To the naked eye, it looks like a self-contained cube of gaseous fog. To the touch, it feels like dry Jell-O. You apply a flame to this ethereal substance and, much to your surprise, your hand remains cool and comfortable. The mystery material you hold in your hand could only be an aerogel.


Aerogels, like many great human innovations, were first created as the result of a bet. In 1931, a chemical engineer by the name of Samuel Stephens Kistler made a friendly wager with a fellow scientist to see who could replace the liquid component of a gel with a gas without causing the structure of the gel to collapse. Kistler first succeeded in creating aerogels by employing supercritical drying processes to remove the liquid component of silica gel.


The end result was truly remarkable. Kistler’s aerogel was a gel in name only. In fact, its structure was composed of 98% air, and only 2% solid silica. Later, Kistler was able to produce similar results by using other substances such as alumina and tin dioxide as substitutes for the silica.


So what can we do with aerogels?


We can create lightweight jackets that insulate so well that they have to be vented in order to keep a person from overheating in freezing temperatures. We can purify water by using aerogels to absorb heavy metals. We can use them as a controlled dosage drug delivery system. We can even capture the dust from the tail of a comet in their pores.


NASA was the chief patron of aerogel technology for much of the twentieth century, but in recent years aerogel applications have spread to a number of other earthbound industries.


The world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, employs aerogels to insulate the mammoth structure. The US Navy has been experimenting with aerogels to produce next generation wetsuits for its divers. Carbon aerogels have even been used as an electrode material in supercapacitors.


We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for aerogel technologies. Over the course of their 80 year history, they’ve evolved from scientific curiosities to versatile industrial materials with a myriad of practical applications.


Want to learn more about the latest advances in thermal technology? Stay tuned for more updates from HTS Amptek!

Tennessee Laboratory Unveils Next Gen Insulation

Tennessee Laboratory Unveils Next Gen Insulation

Thermal insulation technology has been in development since, well, the dawn of human civilization. In the earliest days of R&D, our cave dwelling ancestors used whatever they had on hand –furs, earth, wool, etc. – to keep their homes and bodies warm. Later, the Romans discovered the remarkable insulating properties of cork and asbestos. During the industrial age, waste slag from furnaces was used extensively in building and industrial applications.


Today, researches are still searching for the next great breakthrough in insulation. According to a recent press release, the scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory outside of Knoxville, Tennessee believe they’ve found it. We’re still waiting to learn more about the new material, but here’s what we know so far.


Oak Ridge’s next generation insulation consists of foam insulation panels designed for use primarily in building applications. Preliminary estimates suggest that the foam panels could reduce heating and cooling loads in buildings by as much as 38 to 50 percent. The material has a projected R-Value of about 25, roughly equivalent to that of molded expanded polystyrene.


While the new material would be slightly more expensive than current insulation materials – roughly 30 cents per square foot more – it has the potential to save home and business owners a bundle on their utility bills.


Oak Ridge undertook the project in support of the Department of Energy’s initiative to cut energy consumption in buildings in half by 2030. Oak Ridge still has work to do to optimize the materials for widespread practical application, but before too long we’re likely to see the mysterious foam boards in construction projects all over the country.


At HTS Amptek, we know that effective insulation matters a great deal to your business. Likewise, we strive to always employ the latest insulation technology in our manufacturing process in order to produce the very best results for our clients. Want to learn more about the insulating products available at HTS Amptek? Give us a call today for more information.

The High Performance Insulation Market is Booming

The High Performance Insulation Market is Booming

According to a recent report from research firm Markets and Markets, the worldwide high performance insulation market is projected to balloon into a $6 billion industry by 2020. Currently, North American consumers comprise the epicenter of market growth, accounting for over half of the global market.


Next-generation insulating materials such as aerogels, ceramic fiber, and glass bubble insulators which were once relegated to space programs and experimental laboratory applications are now being employed in other well-established industries, driving the demand for these materials to unexpected heights.


According to the report, the oil industry is the currently the foremost consumer of high performance insulation materials. The fastest growth rates in the next five years are expected to come from construction and automotive industries. Automotive companies, in particular, stand to benefit from the improved acoustic performance and lightweight properties of these new insulating materials.


Aerogels are projected to see the highest increase in consumption. By virtue of their remarkable insulating capabilities, relatively low cost of production, and the abundant availability of their constituent raw materials, aerogels stand out as the most promising new high performance insulation materials. Meanwhile, the oil & gas is continuing to drive the demand for gas bubble insulation products.


At HTS Amptek, we employ the latest, most efficient insulating materials available whenever possible in the design and manufacture of our products. We carry a diverse line of reliable, durable heating and insulation products designed to accommodate a variety of applications. Give us a call today to learn more.