Aerogel – From laboratory to production

The EU funded project “New generation of nanoporous organic and hybrid aerogels for industrial applications: from the lab to pilot scale production“ started on 1 November 2015.  

An industrial-academic partnership comprising 12 international partners is pursuing the goal to develop products with these new generation aerogels and bringing them to market. The project ‘Nanohybrids” is being coordinated by Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), Institute of Thermal Separation Processes under the leadership of Professor Irina Smirnova and with the support of TuTech Innovation, the knowledge transfer arm of TUHH. Partners include BASF Polyurethanes GmbH, Dräger Safety AG & Co. KGaA, Nestlé  and the German Aerospace Center (DLR Köln). At the end of the project each company will present a business plan for aerogels tailored for different industrial and consumer applications such as insulation, gas adsorption, food and personal care. The project has a budget of €4.4 million with €3.6 million funded by Horizon 2020, the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

The idea for this major project emerged from the research cooperation between TUHH and BASF established over the past five years. A team from the TUHH has been conducting research on how to reduce costs in the production of ultra-light materials, which currently is time-consuming and expensive. The head of the institute and aerogel expert Professor Irina Smirnova comments: “This is the first German project for piloting new materials for a long time. All partners get the chance to participate in an overall premarket competition, this means a kind of probationary period for aerogel productions, that normally a company couldn’t handle.”

Within the bilateral cooperation between TUHH and BASF, Professor Smirnova and Dr Marc Fricke from BASF Polyurethanes GmbH work on drying high-performance insulating material based on organic polyurethane aerogels, already introduced to the market by BASF as SLENTITE. The main challenge was to replace fluids with air in aerogels. Fricke explains: “The material needs a certain kind of drying without changing the special structure. This has been successfully managed due to support from Professor Smirnova and her team.” SLENTITE is the first polyurethane aerogel panel with excellent insulation and water-vapour permeability characteristics. Smirnova: “In this project know-how from TUHH and BASF came together to create a new product.” This enabled BASF Lemförde in 2015 to build the first worldwide pilot plant for aerogel panels. This plant will be used within the project for the production of aerogels in a large scale.

The EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 focusses on an EU wide research and innovation driven civil and competitive society as well as contributing to a sustainable development.

BASF and TUHH Team at a meeting in Hamburg with international experts and TUHH-Professor Irina Smirnova (4th from left) und Dr. Marc Fricke (2nd), BASF Polyurethanes GmbH Picture: TUHH

BASF and TUHH Team at a meeting in Hamburg with international experts and TUHH-Professor Irina Smirnova (4th from left) und Dr. Marc Fricke (2nd), BASF Polyurethanes GmbH Picture: TUHH

This Press Release was published 5. Nov. 2015 in German on TUHH website:
https://intranet.tuhh.de/aktuell/pressemitteilung_einzeln.php?id=10326&Lang=de

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