Until now, the production of aerogels has been very complex and usually only possible in highly specialized laboratories. How can processes for the production of the world’s best insulating material be simplified and improved? Just one of the questions discussed at an international conference and workshop with BASF.
Aerogels are exciting and extremely innovative materials that will make totally new applications possible in the coming years. Some of the world’s most celebrated researchers in this field from academia and the chemical industry met for an international conference at Hamburg-Harburg University of Technology (TUHH). The subjects under discussion included new ways of synthesizing organic and inorganic aerogels, production methods and possible technologies for process improvements, the material’s thermal properties, and novel applications in the biosciences or medicine – as carrier materials for bioactive substances, for example.
What are aerogels?
Consisting of a 3-dimensional, highly porous network structure, aerogels differ from conventional foams in that aerogels have pores on the nanometer scale. And these tiny pores of the cavities make the material special, because the smaller the pores are, the less freedom of movement the air molecules have for transmitting their energy by collision. Since heat transmission in the pores is therefore significantly reduced, aerogels are less conductive than air. At the same time, their pores are filled exclusively with air. “Air provides excellent thermal insulation,” says Professor Irina Smirnova of TUHH. “So we need a solid that contains the air in a very large number of tiny pores.” BASF researchers in Dr. Marc Fricke’s team have exploited this effect in creating the new SLENTITE® PU aerogel panel and developing it into a unique high-performance insulating material.
What sounds so simple has in fact seven years of research history behind it during which BASF has worked closely with international experts. Further projects are planned. How to improve the processes involved in the production of the novel aerogel panel was a central theme at the recent Aerogel Workshop of TUHH and BASF at its Lemförde location. Also discussed were the possibilities of nanoporous hybrid materials, which are the subject of a joint EU project, headed by Dr. Wibke Lölsberg, BASF and Professor Irina Smirnova, TUHH. Aerogel research is progressing swiftly and promisingly. BASF has now commissioned its SLENTITE® pilot plant for the production of sample quantities of the new aerogel panel. For the construction sector and especially for sustainable and energyefficient building, this may give rise to totally new approaches to architecture and house design.
AIir provides the best thermal insulation. So we need a solid material that encloses it. With aerogels, we can achieve the 99 percent porosity responsible for the high insulation performance.
Research and innovation are what really drive our company. We create chemistry for a sustainable future. SLENTITE® is a perfect example of how sustainability and innovation come together. With this new generation of thermal insulation materials, we can really bring some unique value to the market.
The SLENTITE® PU aerogel panel is surprisingly light: The material consists of 90 percent air. Its possible applications were explored at the Aerogel Workshop.