Insulation is used to slow and reduce the transfer of heat, which flows by means of conduction, convection or radiation. Traditionally, masonry systems are paired with insulation systems, such as fiberglass, rock & slag wool, cellulose, foils, and foam boards to minimize the effects of these flows. In recent years, the building industry has explored alternative methods of insulating structures. One method is to use bricks infused with an insulating gel material known for its thermal conductivity.
Scientists at Swiss Research Group, Empa, believe that they’ve created the best insulating brick using a product known as “aerogel”. Aerogel is a lightweight material made using a gel in which a gas replaces the gel’s otherwise liquid component. The small gas bubbles minimize the movement of the air molecules through the material, making it an ideal thermal insulating material. Scientists at Empa assert that aerobricks conduct heat up to eight times better than traditional bricks, absorbs little-to-no water, and is recyclable, nontoxic and nonflammable. Empa researchers have also used aerogel as an insulating plaster, which “allows historical buildings to be retrofit for minimal energy loss without affecting their appearance”.
Although aerogel and aerobricks are promising and possess advantageous properties, the bricks are still very expensive. Researchers hope to reduce costs with more efficient production methods. To learn more about aerogel and aerobricks, please visit this link.
Photo: Aerogel is inserted
into the brick’s cavities
Photo Source: Empa