Aerogels are so-called super insulation materials that are extremely light and consist almost entirely of microscopic pores. As a result, they transport heat very poorly. Aerogel insulation, therefore, prevents heat loss much more than conventional material. Aerogels can be made from various substances, but, until now, they have been based almost exclusively on fossil or energy-intensively extracted raw materials, such as silicate minerals. In addition, aerogels have always been expensive due to their complex production.
The founders of aerogel-it have taken a technology originally developed by BASF a step further and, for the first time, produced a high-performance insulating material that is entirely of biological origin. With this bio-based and highly efficient aerogel insulation material, the start-up wants to contribute to decarbonization and energy efficiency in the building sector. The German Federal Foundation for the Environment (DBU) is supporting the project both technically and financially with 125,000 euros.
The material is made of lignin, the most important component of wood besides cellulose, which is, e.g., a by-product of the production of paper. The lignin bioaerogel has a tunable particle size ranging from 1–2 mm and density from 50–150 kg/m³. Its thermal conductivity is between 0.021–0.023 W/(m*K) at 10 °C when in a particle bed. The bioaerogel has a surface area of 250–350 m²/g and a pore volume of 1.9 cm³/g with a porosity of over 90 %. The aerogel insulation is thinner and lighter than conventional insulation, so it creates more space in buildings. Furthermore, the bio-based insulation material can be recycled or even reused.
In the future, the bio-superinsulation material can be used not only in buildings but also in refrigerators and functional clothing. Depending on the application, aerogel-it could produce powder, granulate, or boards. With the DBU funding, they want to advance research and test prototypes. Currently, the material is still under development. It is available at lab and pilot scale. Next year, the company plans to start up their production facility in Wallenhorst in the district of Osnabrück in Germany. To this end, aerogel-it is currently looking for investors.
The DBU’s Green Startup Programme supports start-ups that develop innovative and economically viable solutions for the environment, ecology, and sustainability.
Also of Interest
M. Fricke and R. Subrahmanyam on their 100 % bio-based insulating lignin aerogel and their BASF spin-off