Aerogel superinsulation - Looking back on a decade of technology, process, product and market development

M.M. Koebel, S. Brunner, J. Wernery, W.J. Malfait
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology - EMPA,

Keywords: aerogel, building materials


At nearly 300 million US$ annual sales, the aerogel market is becoming more competitive, despite the fact that aerogel insulation is an order of magnitude more expensive than conventional solutions. This presentation focuses on technical and economic factors which are key elements in determining the innovation path and the rate of adoption of aerogel solutions in the building and construction sector. In Europe, the main drivers for aerogel materials are the EU and national energy policies as both the "Energy-Climate Package" and the "Renewed Lisbon Agenda" set the tone for sustainable technologies, but these incentives are absent for much of the rest of the world. Thus, the cost of aerogel as a material must be lowered substantially to increase competitiveness - but what are technically feasible cost reduction factors we can expect in the medium term? Making aerogel superinsulation more competitive to consumers requires coordinated R&D efforts in both fundamental research and process engineering. The first half of the presentation will provide an overview of aerogel materials science, global ongoing R&D efforts as well as preindustrial manufacturing developments. The second half will address the integration of aerogel materials into products, with emphasis on next generation building envelope solutions. In Switzerland and northern Europe particularly, over the last ten years, many space-saving aerogel-based products have been developed, enabling a two-thirds reduction of the energy demand for operation of the existing building stock. An overview of the most recent developments in the building superinsulation field will be presented and analyzed from investor, operator and regulator perspectives. The presentation will conclude with an outlook on various types of applications currently in the pipeline and a quick glance into the crystal ball in an attempt to predict major trends for the next decade.