Improved thermal insulation means lesser heating costs – but this should not be at the cost of sensational architecture. A new type of brick filled with aerogel could make thin and highly insulating walls possible in the days to come – without any extra insulation layer.
Traditionally, the insulating layers are added to the finished walls. However, self-insulating bricks are increasingly being employed – saving both work steps and costs and opening up new architectural possibilities. Insulating bricks provide a workable compromise between thermal and mechanical properties and are also suitable for multi-story buildings. They are already commercially available in variety of models: some have numerous air-filled chambers; others have larger cavities filled with insulating materials such as mineral wool, pearlite, or polystyrene.
Empa researchers have currently substituted Perlite in insulating bricks with Aerogel: an extremely porous solid with very high thermal insulation properties that can endure temperatures of up to 300 °C. It is not a new material for the researchers, as they have already used it to create a high-performance insulating plaster which, among other things, allows historical buildings to be refurbished energetically without impacting their appearance.
But currently and in the very near future, no one will possibly be able to construct a new house from the new bricks (Aerobricks) – the filling material is at present still too expensive. Wernery calculates that at present market price for aerogel, a single square meter of a brick wall would create extra costs of about 500 francs. However, experts assume that the costs for Aerogel will drop tremendously in the near to medium term – then nothing can hinder the usage of the new wonder brick.
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