High Performance Insulation for Industrial Processes
High temperature processes are used by many advanced material industries and are currently needed to manufacture and purify graphite, produce carbon and graphite fibers, grow silicon and sapphire crystals, sinter carbides and other advanced ceramics, and manufacture carbon/carbon composites. Because of the temperatures involved (1600-2800 C), significant energy losses in the manufacturing process can be attributed to the performance of the insulation. Current insulation for industrial high-temperature furnaces consists of carbon or graphite flexible felts or rigid boards, and, typically, layers of these materials are utilized to insulate furnaces capable of operating at these temperatures. The project objectives will be to demonstrate the feasibility that the primary energy use and energy costs of the targeted end products (solar silicon wafers, sapphire LED substrates, carbon fiber, etc.) can be reduced by 50% and manufacturing costs of these products can be reduced by 20% without sacrificing product quality. These objectives will be realized by developing a new aerogel-fiber reinforced composite insulation to replace the current state-of-the-art material. This improved insulation will be a rigid carbon aerogel/carbon fiber-reinforced product that replaces current furnace insulation used in these manufacturing processes and allows for (1) reducing primary energy use by reducing thermal losses in the furnaces, (2) increasing capacity and throughput using the existing equipment owing to better temperature uniformity and reduced scrap losses, (3) decreasing thickness of insulation and increasing diameter of the furnace cavity in the next generation furnaces, and (4) decreasing energy costs to produce the carbon aerogel/carbon fiber-composite insulation. The new insulation developed in Phase I and optimized in Phase II will lead directly to increased productivity within the above markets and help to lower costs of the finished products (solar cells, LEDs, carbon composites, etc.). In addition, the products produced by these industries directly impact greenhouse gas emissions as they either generate renewable electricity (solar) or increase energy efficiency which will reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuel energy sources (e.g., LED lighting and carbon fiber composites for lightweight transportation applications). Commercial Applications and other benefits It is anticipated that this new material will be commercialized as insulation for high temperature furnaces, and the process developed to manufacture the rigid carbon board insulation will lead to reduced production costs for other rigid aerogel products. The improved insulation is expected to significantly reduce the cost of producing silicon and sapphire wafers for the PV and LED industries and many other materials produced at high temperatures.
Small Business Information at Submission:
Aspen Aerogels, Inc.
30 Forbes Road, Bldg. B Northborough, MA 01532-2511
Number of Employees: