Kick-off-meeting of new BMWi cluster on aerogel production to enhance energy efficiency

Aerogel samples produced by partners of the NanoHybrids consortium. Picture: C. Remmersmann/TUTECH

On the 23rd of January, the kick-off-meeting of the cluster „Beitrag der Aerogele zur Energieeffizienz-Erhöhung in der Industrie“ (Contribution of aerogels to the increase of energy efficency in industry) will be held at TUHH. The cluster is coordinated by Professor Irina Smirnova (Institute of Thermal Separation Processes at TUHH). It is funded by the BMWI (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy) and involves four projects of research institutions and their partners from industry: AeroFurnance (ZAE Bayern), AeroPROCast (DLR), NAFT (TU Dresden), AeroKonti (TUHH).

Beyond the scope of NanoHybrids, aerogels offer a multitude of industrial potential. Europe hosts a significant number of leading research institutes and industry with an extraordinary knowledge. With the BMWi cluster, the German aerogels community will now further promote more diverse and high quality production of aerogels. This BMWi cluster will focus on the contributions of aerogels to enhancing energy efficiency in industry. This complements the research and innovation activities conducted in NanoHybrids.

Aerogels – light weight solids with unique properties

Aerogels are nanostructured, open-pore solids that can be prepared in principle from all materials that form a stable gel and can be dried while preserving the structure. These include various metals, metal oxides and metal chalcogenides as well as polymers, biopolymers, carbonates and phosphates. All aerogels have some characteristics in common: an extremely high specific internal surface area (100 to 2000 m2 / g), pores in the range of a few tens to a few hundred nanometers, very low thermal conductivities, high sound absorption and high porosities of more than 90%. These extreme properties allow the use of aerogels in areas where conventional materials fail. One particular example is thermal insulation, also under extreme conditions. Today, for example, sensitive biomedical goods are transported in aerogel-insulated containers, submarine oil and gas pipelines are provided with aerogel-based insulation and heavily thermally stressed or sensitive components in sports cars are also protected with aerogel composite mats. There are, however, a number of other applications that have been successfully tested in the laboratory and will soon find their way into the industry.

Further boosting the industrial potential of aerogels

To develop a long-term strategy on the topic of aerogels, several experts have joined forces with the representatives of the BMWi and PTJ. They identified current research topics that should be prioritized in joint projects between industry and academic research. In particular, it has been found that the production of innovative materials using sol-gel processes and high pressure technology offers great potential, and materials with a combination of properties that are inaccessible with other techniques. It was clearly recognized that the know-how available in Germany in this field is unique and represents an excellent basis for significantly diversifying the production of aerogels in Germany and realizing them with high quality. This is precisely the goal pursued in the work of the Cluster “Contribution of aerogels to increasing energy efficiency in industry” with the support of the BMWi.

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