New aerogel insulation material more soundproof and heat-resistant

There are many materials on the market to insulate your house or make it more soundproof, but researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a new aerogel insulation material that outperforms existing products in this department.

The main ingredient is aerogel, which is an ultra-light silica-based material that consists of 99 per cent air thanks to microscopic pores. By itself, aerogel is not useful as insulation, because it is very brittle. However, by adding some additives, it gains strength and special properties. One of the additives is carbon nanotubes that alter the structure of the material and make it highly water-repellent, absorbing less than 10 per cent water.

The material insulates 2.6 times better than conventional insulation, and at the same time blocks out 30 per cent more sound (80 per cent against 50 per cent). Yet the aerogel insulation is thinner than comparable products.

To reduce the noise level of a passing truck to that of a conversation between two people, 25mm-thick regular soundproofing foam is necessary, as opposed to only 15mm of the new material.

In a test, the aerogel insulation was exposed to a blowtorch of 2000 degrees Celsius (3632 degrees Fahrenheit) for a couple of minutes, but the backside of the material was still hovering around a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). Needless to say, conventional insulation and soundproofing material did not fare so well.

The material is also greener to produce, as it does not require heat treatment or toxic materials in its production. It only uses water and does not generate any gas.

The material is developed by associate professor Sunil Chandrankant Joshi and his then PhD student Mahesh Sachithanadam at NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. They worked on it for four years. It was licensed in May this year by local company Bronx Creative & Design Centre. The material, dubbed AeroSil, will go into mass production by the first half of next year.

Photos: NTU