From small to large and back - the future of aerogel materials and the role of processing

M.M. Koebel, S. Brunner, J. Wernery, W.J. Malfait
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology,

Keywords: sustainable building materials


Many commodity materials have found their place in the market through their price. Typically low raw materials cost and simple processing make great commodity products. Many High-Tech materials do not have the potential to ever reach commodity volumes. In other cases, innovative process technology and economy of scale have brought complex solutions to the masses as for example in the microelectronics industry. Aerogels are such an example of a High-Tech product category with great potential for mass market applications: In the insulation industry, aerogels can offer thinner insulation solutions with excellent recycling potential whereas in miniaturized applications such as microelectronics, membranes and sensor technology they can create substantial added value as thin films, thermal barriers or active layers. In this presentation, we shall elaborate on the complexity and technical limitations but also opportunities for the preparation of silica and related aerogel materials. Technical challenges linked to the preparation of particle based aerogels (granulate and powders) will be discussed together with possibilities for product integration for building and industrial insulation. In a second part of the talk we will address additive manufacturing strategies of silica aerogel materials for small volume – high specialization applications. The presentation will conclude with an outlook on various types of processing routes currently under development and a quick outlook on the potential relevance of 3D printed silica aerogel materials and components.