Polymeric nanocellular foams for thermal insulation: challenges and promises

S. Costeux
The Dow Chemical Company, US

Keywords: nanocellular foam, polymer nanotechnology

Summary:

Nanotechnologies offer the promise of new materials with unique combinations of properties. While the barrier for implementation of these technologies is relatively low in high-tech applications (electronics, aeronautics etc.), their use in large volume applications such as building materials has the additional constraints of scale, cost and job site handling. This has been the main reason for the failure of aerogels to penetrate this market despite their outstanding insulation properties. Nevertheless, investigation of new materials for future buildings is progressing and, in certain cases, results in material structures that may find applications in other areas. An example is nano-cellular polymer foams, which have been envisioned as lower cost, robust alternative to aerogels. In the past several years, Dow has broken new ground in producing homogeneous foams with small cells (100nm) and densities similar to organic aerogels, using various foaming techniques and raw materials that are commercially available. Gaseous heat transfer was shown to be reduced in such materials as in aerogels. Other applications are envisioned for these new materials.