A tailor-made solution

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Hall 05 | Booth C21

At the Pre-K press conference in June Dr Marc Fricke held a presentation on polyurethane (PU) high-performance insulating materials as ready-to-use panels. The product is scheduled for launch in a few years. BASF Polyurethanes says that the product’s combination of properties is a world’s first. The panel is very slim and light and said to have exceptional insulation properties and to be easy to process.

The first PU high-performance insulating material as a ready-to-use panel (photos: BASF)

The debate about global warming and the rising prices of raw materials has brought the subject of sustainability firmly into the public spotlight. To conserve resources in day-to-day living, thermal insulation – be it in buildings or refrigerators – has an important role to play: because good insulation reduces energy costs, has a positive impact on the carbon footprint and thus contributes to climate protection.

The insulation panel

BASF has developed a unique high-performance product for the insulation sector that is scheduled for launch in a few years. The panel is very slim and light and said to have exceptional insulation properties and to be easy to process.

“The new insulating material will be a tailor-made solution for the individual needs of BASF’s customers. With adjustments to its chemical formulation, the product can be modified to suit the requirement profiles of different application sectors,” says Dr Marc Fricke, Laboratory Head of Global Advanced Materials & Systems Research, who has developed the new product with his team. “We want a high-performance insulating material that is easy to process and offers unprecedented design freedom. We can make inroads into areas so far difficult for thermal insulation, such as the modernisation of old buildings and interior finish.”

With a lambda value of below 16mW/mK the panel lies below today’s standard insulating materials performance with values ranging from 21 to 40mW/mK.

The product achieves a lambda value of below 16mW/mK. Usually today’s standard insulating materials perform with values ranging from 21 to 40mW/mK. “The material not only insulates remarkably well, but is therefore also extremely economical with space in its application. Compared to conventional products, 25 % to 50?% slimmer insulation is possible. The grade of thinness of the insulation depends on the application.”

In terms of its processing, the product has many advantages. It can be handled dust-free and, like conventional construction materials, is easy to work with – sawing, cutting, drilling and bonding are not a problem during the installation of the PU panel.

Tests have resulted in the material being formally admitted and registered for use  as a building material. In terms of its durability, no long-term value is currently available.

Pore size in the nanometer range

The insulating material is a novel type of organic aerogel that will be offered as a mechanically strong panel – a hands-on aerogel, so to speak. Its good insulation performance is made possible by its optimised pore size in the nanometer range – something not yet achieved in the form of a sturdy panel. The tiny pores limit the air molecules’ freedom of movement and thus reduce the transfer of heat.

Further reduction in thermal conductivity in VIPs

The exact geometry of the panel offers an advantage compared to inorganic powders used as core material for vacuum insulation panels (VIPs). When used in a VIP, a vacuum is applied during production of the high-performance insulating material in order to remove air from the pores. The application of this process yields a further significant improvement in the lambda value. Integrated in a VIP as the core material, a further reduction of its thermal conductivity under 5mW/mK is possible.

For feel-good climate, aesthetics and energy-efficient cooling

BASF sees future applications of the product above all in the construction sector and in refrigeration. Fricke says that the panel does not constitute a direct rival to BASF’s Neopor as the EPS product is used for other fields of applications where performance values exceed 20mW/mK. EPS also focuses on different target markets. The prices for the new product are well above those of standard plastics.

House owners want not only insulating materials that perform well for a building as energy-efficient as possible, but also a feel-good climate in their home. The insulating material’s open-porous structure encourages effective humidity regulation in interior spaces. This has a positive impact on room climate while also preventing the development of mould and damage to the building fabric.

Insulating materials are often chosen for aesthetic reasons. Thanks to its minimum space requirements, the new PU material offers wide design freedom in the construction of new buildings and modernisation of existing ones – while achieving good insulation values. Thanks to its good processing characteristics, even complicated designs are possible. There is no longer any conflict between aesthetics and insulation, which is good news for architects and designers.

Also good news for refrigerators

The high performance insulating material offers refrigerator manufacturers totally new prospects as well. Thanks to its high insulation performance, it is now possible to build more energy-efficient refrigerators. This means lower running costs for end users and benefits for the environment. Used as a core material in VIPs and installed in refrigerators, it creates greater space in their interiors.

Innovation in the service of the environment

BASF has bundled its research for polymers and additives in the new technology platform “Advanced Materials & Systems Research”, focusing on a holistic systems approach. BASF research is now moving the new high-performance insulation material into the pilot phase. As the process develops, the first sample quantities will be produced at a new pilot plant at the Lemfoerde site, and prices are subsequently expected to decrease. Samples will be available in the second half of 2014.

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