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silica gel insulating foam

Silica insulating foam keeps buildings and vehicles quiet and warm

A new insulating foam that promises significantly improved heat retention and soundproofing in comparison to traditional materials has been developed by researchers at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore).

The team claims their aerogel composite will make vehicles and buildings cooler and quieter compared to current insulation materials in the market.

It has been shown to reduce noise by as much as 80 per cent in comparison to 50 per cent for conventional foam and is 50 per cent thinner yet retains 37 per cent more heat.

For example, to reduce the noise generated by a nearby truck driving along the road, only 15mm of the new material would be needed whereas traditional insulation foam requires a thickness of 25mm.

The material is created primarily from silica aerogels with a few other additives, and the developers say it will be ready for commercialisation early next year to be used for a wide range of applications including building and construction, oil and gas and the automotive industry.

A new plant opening next year will produce the aerogel composites in various forms such as sheets or panels, and one of its developers, Professor Sunil Chandrankant Joshi, said the foam will be easy to install and use due to its reduced thickness.

“Our NTU thin foam is also greener to manufacture, as it does not require high-heat treatment or toxic materials in its production. It is therefore a lot more eco-friendly and less hazardous to the environment,” he said.

Dr Mahesh Sachithanadam, who also worked on the four-year project, said: “For both heat insulation and sound-proofing, we can now use less material to achieve the same effect, which will also lower the overall material and logistic costs.”

Apart from being a good thermal and acoustic insulator, it is also non-flammable, a crucial factor for materials used in high-heat environments common in the oil and gas industries.

The gel is resilient and can withstand high compression or heavy loads. A small 10cm by 10cm piece of the aerogel composite material weighing just 15g can take up to 300kg of weight, maintaining its shape without being flattened.

Sachithanadam added that the team intends to undergo further research and optimisation to improve the performance of the aerogel composite.

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