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Multi-talented AEROSIL® is also proving itself as insulation in vacuum insulation panels. (Photo: va-Q-tec AG)
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With its vacuum insulation panels (VIPs), the Inorganic Materials Business Unit has provided the impetus for development of an exceptionally energy-efficient and economical solution. The panels are produced from vacuum-packed AEROSIL®, which is fused into a special multilayer and highly air- and moisture-resistant film. "The more porous and, therefore, high-quality the silica is, the easier it is to press the powder together and the better its insulating effect," explains Dr. Frank Menzel, Applied Technology Thermal Insulation. The VIP functions like a thermos. Because of the vacuum, very little heat is transferred, and therefore convection—the natural heat transfer from warm to cold—is prevented in the insulation. The history of success of AEROSIL®-filled VIP began only a few years ago, when energy prices shot up and the pressure to save energy increased considerably. With a substantially reduced thickness, VIPs achieve roughly eight times the insulation value of conventional insulation such as polyurethane, the material that was previously used in refrigerators. In practice, this means a considerable reduction in energy consumption and more room for the goods that require cooling. So thanks to vacuum insulation panels, refrigerators in energy efficiency classes A++ and A+++ are easy to produce. Nowadays, because of their highly reliable insulation properties, VIPs are also installed in transportable coolers. A constant temperature is vital to the medical industry, for example, in the shipping of blood samples or the transport of medicines and organs.
In addition to use in refrigerators and freezers, AEROSIL®-filled VIPs are used in other industries, such as packaging and containers for temperature-sensitive products, or in the insulation for building renovation (e.g. exteriors, floors). New applications and markets are opening up little by little. "Reduced energy prices are still pretty far off, so further appearances by these coveted VIPs are already scheduled. Because more and more consumers are valuing the longevity and reliability of their appliances," says Dr. Hark-Oluf Asbahr.