Aerogel Becomes Affordable as a Home Insulator

published Feb 4, 2010
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Dr. Peter Tsou of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory once said, “you could take a two- or three-bedroom house, insulate it with aerogel, and you could heat the house with a candle. But eventually the house would become too hot.” So why haven’t we all been spraying our buildings with the stuff? Unfortunately, for the past 75 years aerogel has been way too expensive, but that’s all about to change.

Aerogel is made by removing liquid from gels, resulting in a material that’s over 90 percent air and four times more efficient than fiberglass or foam. Aerogel used to be so expensive only NASA’s federal budget could handle the cost, but a few companies have been working on a way to produce the stuff without breaking the budget, including Aspen Aerogels, which has developed a version that’s relatively easy to work with (it’s sold as rolled up sheets). While their insulator is still more expensive than traditional insulators, the cost is validated when you realize that aerogel allows water vapor to pass through and is fire resistant.

A few other companies are making strides in the field as well, including Cabot and ThermaBlok. Hopefully with the added competition, prices will go down even more. Contractors are already using the new aerogels to insulate homes that are sealed from the outside, both over masonry and under shingles, reports. “On wood frame homes, thin strips of aerogel can be applied to studs to prevent what’s called thermal bridging, where heat escapes through the walls’ framing.”

Check out the rad video below, which shows just how powerful aerogel is as it protects from both heat and cold.

via PopSci