New Type High Efficiency
Perhaps the best way to conserve the energy used for heating or cooling is to increase insulation as much as possible. Well insulated buildings save a lot of energy and thereby money. That is why designers work hard constantly developing new and improved thermal insulation systems.
Insulating materials in current use include PU foam, rock wool, etc. – the best type of materials are those that have the lowest thermal conductivity – that means they are good at stopping heat passing through. The lower the thermal conductivity the less is the loss of heat between the outer and inner walls of a building.
In recent times, with the advent of high fuel prices and dwindling stocks, there has been a growing demand for better insulation so thicker and thicker layers of insulation are being utilised. At one time, for instance, 2 inches or 5 cm of attic insulation was thought to be an acceptable level, nowadays however, the desired figure is eight inches that’s 20 cm or even more.
The search is on for better and better insulating materials. Conventional insulation materials such as polystyrene foam are not fully able to prevent the loss of heat, but vacuum can provide the solution, same as in a vacuum flask that can keep the coffee hot for many hours.
Recently the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg Germany announced that they have developed a new type of vacuum insulation panels – VIPs for short – to a point where they are suitable for thermal insulation in construction work. The vacuum insulation panels are made up of a porous supporting structure encased in a special film that is not permeable to water vapour and gas, this is evacuated to just a few millibars and sealed. Sharp objects can easily damage the film which holds the vacuum, so the whole thing is then encased in a layer of polystyrene foam.
The thermal conductivity of the VIPs is ten times lower than that of other insulation materials. What’s more, it is significantly thinner. Current insulation can be 20 to 30 centimeters, this new system is only 9 to 11 cm thick for the same or even greater efficiency.
Looks promising if they can be made at reasonable costs. These panels might also be useful for retro fitting as attic insulation.