SBIR Phase I: Vacuum Insulation Panels with Tensile Structural Elements

Period of Performance: 01/01/2011 - 12/31/2011


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Thermal Conservation Technologies
1841 Morgan Circle
Naperville, IL 60565
Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop an ultra-thin high-R-value robust vacuum insulation panel (VIP). Thermal models indicate that with a½" thick VIP an R-value of 50 can be achieved with an expected retail cost of ~$4.25/ft2. The technology uses tensile structural elements as thermal impedances and is based on a pending patent which has been licensed from the University of Illinois at Chicago. The VIP is expected to be suitable forinstallation in industrial and residential structures since it has a stainless steel foil exterior as opposed to current VIP technology, which uses a laminate of polyester and aluminum foil as its vacuum barrier. The aluminum foil creates a thermal short (edge losses) around the current VIPs whichcan greatly reduce their effective R-value. The use of stainless steel has the additional advantage of significantly reducing edge losses as well as increased puncture resistance. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be a drastic reduction in the energy required to heat and cool dwellings, or to refrigerate trucks used to transport perishable goods. In transportation, a refrigerated hi-cube trailer with 3? of polyurethane foam has an R-value of ~19, and could gain 9% more volume and carry 860 pounds less weight when using a ½" thick VIP with an R-value of 50. Most refrigerated trailers in the US consume up to 1.1 gallons of diesel fuel each hour to keep their loads cold. Since there are ~330,000 refrigerated trailers operating for ~3,000 hours/year, this translates into a fuel savings of 62%, or nearly 2% of the total diesel fuel consumption in this country eachyear. Compact and inexpensive thermal insulation can make better use of space inside new dwellings, and be used to retrofit existing dwellings with higher R-value insulation. In a 2002 review of VIPs for the residential market prepared by NAHB Research Center for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development Office, low puncture resistance was cited as a key factor slowing the adoption of vacuum insulation panels.