Efficient Insulation Material

Svenska Aerogel Dr. Samuel Kistler had no idea back in 1929 that he was creating aerogel, the lightest solid material known to man – he was simply trying to win a bet to remove liquid from a gel without causing shrinkage. It was serendipity – a happy accident – that the result of his work was an intriguing, porous, lightweight solid impervious to heat or flame and with wondrous insulating qualities. Serendipity struck again when Svenska Aerogel set out in 2000 to develop a filter for greenhouse gases, and in the process hit upon a vastly more efficient method for producing aerogels - which indirectly fight global warming caused by greenhouse gases by being the best insulating materials thus far invented.

Aerogels are considered the world’s best insulators, yet high costs due to complicated and energy-intensive production have left them as a niche product for the aerospace and nuclear industries. Kistler removed liquid from his silica ‘jelly’ through a hot drying process. Using nanotechnology, Svenska Aerogel has patented a continuous energy-efficient and more cost-effective method of producing aerogel.

Svenska Aerogel’s raw material, silica, is abundant and non-toxic and the resulting aerogel is a superior insulator, impervious to all three methods of heat transfer - convection, conduction and radiation – as well as being fire-proof.

That makes Svenska Aerogel’s innovation practically the perfect material to meet the growing demand for thinner, high-performance insulation. Homeowners want efficient, thin-profile insulation to guard against high energy prices (aerogels are many times more effective than fiberglass) while maximizing living space. Svenska Aerogel can offer an affordable, high performance insulation material for the building and construction industry, which for the same wall space conventional materials use today, increase insulation capacity three to four times.

Buildings are very concrete examples of the “high-carbon lock-in effect”, i.e. once the investment is made we will have to live with its climate impact for many decades. Given the large contribution of CO2 emissions from buildings – which account for some 40% of global energy consumption – it’s crucial to find solutions for improving energy efficiency of the existing building stock.

Super-efficient insulation based on aerogel offers opportunities for insulating existing building stock to the level of passive house standards. This type of insulation could reduce annual CO2 emissions by 32 million tonnes if applied to one fifth of existing building stock in ten years – and by doing so, shifting from a “high-carbon” to a “low-carbon lock-in effect”.

Svenska Aerogel plans to build its first large scale production plant near Gävle, Sweden, to be up and running by 2013.

To reduce transportation costs and stay true to the company’s environmental ethos, Svenska Aerogel believes it smartest to locate further production plants close to where its largest customers are located. Primary initial markets are within the European continent, though discussions with interested actors in Asia and South America are also on-going.

Svenska Aerogel’s raw product is currently a fine, porous, silica-based powder. To create a form factor that is easily handled by the building and construction industry and exploit the product’s maximum insulative qualities requires further product development. Working in collaboration with leading market actors, the company is striving to come up with different composite building materials, such as blankets or boards.

In addition, present product development is focused on adjusting the aerogel formulation to achieve optimal insulation by lowering thermal conductivity and fine-tuning material parameters  such as density, pore distribution, pore sizes, and pore volume, all of which govern conductivity.

The biggest barrier and challenge to the introduction of lower-cost aerogel insulators from Svenksa Aerogel is the difficulty of full scale, fully atomized aerogel production. In addition, a major challenge will be to stay ahead of the competition. To do this Svenska Aerogel will closely link product development to the results of ongoing research and to customers’ needs. Achieved technological advantages will be contained and protected through confidentiality agreements and patenting.

Svenska Aerogel AB is a research and development company commercializing various applications of a patented version of an aerogel material. The company was founded in the year 2000, a spin-off of from research at the University of Gävle and KTH in Stockholm. The idea behind Svenska Aerogel was to find a good and flexible filter material to capture different greenhouse gases. The company’s focus later turned towards making efficient and price-competitive insulation materials.

CEO Anders Lundström (M. Sc. in mechanical engineering) has experience from many trades and industries and always maintains focus on creating change and growth He worked as international product manager with Bosch/Rexroth (automation), as a consultancy manager at Poolia (IT, ISO certification), as CEO of PAf Rekrytering (recruitment within several business areas), and was CEO of Occasio/Towork (headhunting, IT) as well as CEO of Newbeam (building products of engineered wood).

Chairman Christer Sjöström is Professor Emeritus at KTH and the University of Gävle. Vice-chancellor for research at the University of Gävle 2001-2008, he currently holds a research and advisory position at KTH Building Science. Sjöström has  long experience in lifecycle assessment and eco-cycle adaptation of materials and products. CTO Peter Norberg is responsible for the product development activities in the company and has access to laboratories and equipment at the university in compliance with an agreement signed by the University of Gävle and the company.