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The best insulation materials should have the lowest thermal conductivity to reduce overall thermal conductivity. The insulating properties of commercially available insulating materials are determined by the amount of gas contained in the material and the number of gas pockets. Therefore, the greater the number of cells (which cancontain stagnate gas) and the smaller their size, the lower the thermal conductivity of such insulation material.
Thermal properties largely depend on the thermal conductivity of the cell walls and cell-matrix, as well as radiation and convection, with the cell-matrix being the most important factor determining the overall heat transfer properties. Thermal conductivity changes over time due to changes in the composition of the cell-matrix.
The heat energy flows through the insulation material through three mechanisms: solid conductivity, gas conductivity and radiation (infrared). The sum of these three components gives the total thermal conductivity of the material. The improvement of the thermal resistance of a building partition can be achieved by reducing the thermal conductivity.
Thermal insulation can be achieved thanks to specially developed methods or procedures, as well as appropriate shapes and materials of objects. Heat flow is an unavoidable consequence of contact between objects of different temperatures. The insulating capacity of the material is measured as the inverse of thermal conductivity (k). In thermal engineering, other important properties of insulation materials are product density (r) and specific heat capacity (c). Thermal insulators capture gas bubbles in the foam structure. When these gas cells are filled with moisture, there is a significant loss of insulation efficiency. Absorption of moisture by insulating materials can take place not only through direct contact with water entering the walls of the space around them but also by condensation of water vapour in the walls, in which the dew point is the temperature gradient reached by the walls.
Insulation means creating a barrier between a hot and cold object that reduces heat transfer by reflecting heat radiation or reducing heat conduction and convection from one object to another. Depending on the barrier material, the insulation is more or less effective. Very low heat-conductive barriers are good heat insulators, while very good heat conductive materials have low insulation capacity.
The silica aerogel pores are open and allow gas to flow through the material. Water molecules do not interact strongly with the walls of the pores of a hydrophobic aerogel and therefore do not lose much energy when hitting the wall, and the progression of these particles is not significantly slowed down. Therefore, the aerogel has high breathability, i.e., high permeability between water vapour and active substance vapours. Thermal insulation properties of aerogels are also closely related to their acoustic properties.
Aerogels can be used as building materials only if their thermal insulation properties are used at low weight and low costs. Not much can be done to reduce heat transfer through the solid structure of the aerogels. In addition, as the amount of solids decreases, the average pore diameter increases (as the gaseous conductivity component increases). Carbon is an effective absorber for infrared radiation, and in some cases increases the mechanical strength of an aerogel.
Alumina-filled silicone rubbers are available for applications requiring thermal conductivity. Teflon is an excellent high-temperature insulation with very good electrical properties. Teflon hoses and wire insulation are available in different colours and are usually slippery.
Parts machined from rigid polyurethane are often used as heat insulators in electronic devices. Soft foams are good for vibration and sound absorption and are available with different properties. Silicone foams offer excellent vibration damping as well as excellent performance at high temperatures and also provide chemical resistance.
Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are made of a polymer blend, usually plastic and rubber, to combine the benefits of each material in the insulation product. TPEs can be moulded, extruded and reused as plastic while maintaining the elasticity and extensibility of the rubber. TPEs are widely used in applications where conventional elastomers are not able to provide the required range of physical properties. The disadvantages of TPEs include poor chemical and heat resistance, low heat resistance and higher cost than other types of insulation.
The greatest advantage of pure foam is its excellent thermal insulation properties. Polyurethane (PUR) foam is also resistant to relatively high loads, as well as fungi and mould. PUR foam adheres perfectly to both vertical and horizontal surfaces and has a porous structure.
Hypalon has excellent tear and impact resistance, excellent abrasion, ozone, oil and chemical resistance as well as good weather properties. It has excellent electrical properties as well as ozone resistance, low moisture absorption, weather resistance and radiation resistance. It has excellent electrical properties in combination with excellent thermal stability and flexibility.
- Wool insulation is made of sheep wool fibres that are either mechanically held together or combined into insulation mats and rolls with 5% to 15% recycled polyester glue.
- Hemp batts or rolls usually consists of 85% hemp fibre, and the rest consists of binding polyester and 3 to 5% soda to protect against fire.
- Glass mineral wool batts and rolls are made of molten glass, usually from 20% to 30% of industrial recycled and post-consumer waste.
- If moisture is a high risk (moisture penetration or relative humidity above 95%), a suitably resistant material must be determined.
- Hemp walls must be used together with a frame made of another material that can withstand vertical loads in construction since the density of hemp is 15% of the density of conventional concrete.
- CO2 represents over 99% of the gas in the cell chambers.
- Silicon dioxide solidifies into three-dimensional, interrelated clusters, which constitute only 3% of the volume. The remaining 97% of the volume consists of air in very small nanopores.