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Scientists, including those of Indian-origin, have developed a new insulating foam that can cut off outside noise and heat to help create cooler, quieter vehicles and buildings. Known as aerogel composites, the foam insulates against heat 2.6 times better than conventional insulation foam. Sunil Chandrankant Joshi and Mahesh Sachithanadam from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, developed aerogel composites which can block out 80 per cent of outside noise, whereas normal foam only reduces sound by 50 per cent. Made from silica aerogels with a few other additives, it has the potential to be used in a wide range of applications, including in building and construction, oil and gas and the automotive industry. Joshi said the foam will be easy to install and use as it is thinner than conventional foam yet has better performance. "Our NTU thin foam is also greener to manufacture, as it does not require high heat treatment or toxic materials in its production.
It is therefore a lot more eco-friendly and less hazardous to the environment," said Joshi. To reduce the noise generated by a truck driving by to that of a normal conversation, only 15 millimetre (mm) of the new material would be needed. On the other hand, common insulation foam requires a thickness of 25 mm. Against heat, the new aerogel composite, branded as "Bronx AeroSil", will still out-perform it by 37 per cent although it is 50 per cent thinner than conventional foam. "For both heat insulation and sound-proofing, we can now use less material to achieve the same effect, which will also lower the overall material and logistic costs," said Sachithanadam. Apart from being a good thermal and acoustic insulator, it is also non-flammable - a crucial factor for materials used in high heat environments common in the oil and gas industries. It is also resilient and can withstand high compression or heavy loads. A small 10x10 centimetres piece of the aerogel composite material weighing just 15 grammes can take up to 300 kilogrammes of weight, maintaining its shape without being flattened. Further research and optimisation would be carried out to improve the performance of the aerogel composite material to ensure it maintains its competitiveness edge against other technologies, said Sachithanadam.
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