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Research Highlight

Vacuum Insulation Improves Building Energy Performance

September 4, 2018 - Vacuum insulation technology called modified atmosphere insulation, or MAI, could be a viable solution for improving the energy performance of buildings, based on a study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and industry partners. ORNL researchers used a specialized environmental chamber to characterize panels containing foam-encapsulated MAI cores and exposed them to outdoor weatherization tests via real building applications. Laboratory experiments verified the panels’ thermal resistance to heat flow to be at least twice that of current building insulation materials made of plastic foams, cellulose or fiberglass. “Buildings consume 40 percent of the nation’s energy and about 20 percent of the buildings’ portion is due to heat gains or losses through the building enclosure,” said ORNL’s Kaushik Biswas, lead coauthor of the study.“We’ve proven that MAI-based composites are technically viable options for buildings providing higher performance than current insulations.” The team’s results were published in the journal Applied Energy.

An infrared image shows polysio foam only and foam-encapsulated MAI core sections, in yellow and orange respectively. The orange areas indicates lower heat transfer because of the higher thermal resistance of the MAI sections. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of EnergyORNL researcher Kaushik Biswas analyzes the thermal performance of a two-by-two foot composite panel covered with smaller MAI panels separated by foam insulation. Credit: Jason Richards/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy