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

BASF has developed a unique high-performance product for the insulation sector that is scheduled for launch in a few years. The company says the material displays exceptional insulation performance, is extra-slim, light and will be produced as a ready-to-use polyurethane panel that is 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 BASF’s Global Advanced Materials & Systems Research, who has developed the new product with his team.

The product achieves a lambda value of below 16 milliwatts per metre and kelvin (mW/m · K), an unsurpassed insulation performance for an insulating panel. Today’s standard insulating materials perform with values ranging from 21 to 40 mW/m · K. The material not only insulates remarkably well, but is therefore also extremely economical with space in its application. Compared to conventional products, a 25 per cent to 50 per cent slimmer insulation is possible.

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.

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 exceptional 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 significantly reduce the transfer of heat. Furthermore, 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 5 mW/m · K is possible.

BASF sees future applications of the product above all in the construction sector and in refrigeration.