December 04, 2011
Vacuum Insulation Layers For Home Retrofits

Researchers at Fraunhofer research institutes in Germany are working on thinner insulation that uses vacuum as the insulating layer with pyrogenic silica for the structure.

In Germany, the rising cost of heating has sparked a renovation boom. In order to lower energy costs, more and more homeowners are investing in insulation facades. But the typical insulation layers on the market have one drawback: they add bulk. The 20-centimeter-thick outer skin changes the building’s visual appearance and can result in significant follow-up costs – with a need to fit new, deeper window sills and sometimes even roof extensions. Fraunhofer researchers are now developing films for a material that will insulate homes without much additional structural alteration: vacuum isolation panels, VIPs for short. The panels are only two centimeters thick and yet perform just as well as a classic 15-centimeter-thick insulation layer made from polyurethane foam. The inner workings of the VIPs are made mostly from pyrogenic silica. A high-tech film holds the material together and makes it air-tight.

Increased thickness isn't just an installation cost issue. Some structures have driveways or adjacent buildings that do not provide much room for expansion of a building's thickness.

The researchers are working on increasing panel longevity.

I'm wondering how well these VIPs would work as sound insulation. Sound does not travel thru vacuum. So for old apartment buildings with thin leaky walls could one cut down road noise and even install it in ceilings and floors to reduce noise from other apartments?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 December 04 09:15 PM  Energy Conservation

PacRim Jim said at December 4, 2011 10:37 PM:

Considering all the noxious gases outgassed by construction materials, furniture, etc., I'm not sure it's a good idea to hermetically seal a house.

Engineer-Poet said at December 17, 2011 7:39 PM:

This is more or less what I've been suggesting for a while, though I'd suggest a black carbon aerogel instead of silica to block radiative heat transfer through the material.

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