07 December 2010 20:15 [Source: ICIS news]
LEVERKUSEN, Germany (ICIS)--Nanofoams that can double the insulating performance of polyurethanes (PU) are only around 3 to 5 years away from being commercially available, an executive with Bayer said on Tuesday.
Hans-Wilhelm Engels, senior vice president of Innovation and Specialties at Bayer MaterialScience (BMS), said that the German major had been developing the nanofoams for around 3 years and that they would have a tremendous effect on the market.
Polyurethanes are mainly used in insulation applications and they are the best insulating materials available today, he said.
One of the major applications for nanofoams could be improving the energy efficiency of refrigerators, for example. The most efficient modern appliances, he said, consume 60% less energy than those made 15 years ago.
Typically, foams used in a refrigerator normally have a K factor – the measurement of is insulation properties – of around 22, with the cell size of around 150 micrometres.
“If we could make foams with cell sizes in the 100-500 nanometre range, then the K factor can be reduced from 22 to 8,” Engels said.
“That is such a significant improvement in efficiency and there is no other way of doing this,” he continued. “That has, of course, attracted the interest of scientists to find a way to make such nanofoams.”
“In the laboratory, we have already certain sizes of foams generated, but what you want with polyurethanes is the versatility to make it in large quantities in all kinds of shapes,” he said. “It is basically now the up-scaling of this technology that will take a lot of energy not only on the chemical side, but also on the machinery side.”
“I personally believe it is around 3-5 years away from real commercial applications.”
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