Streamlined life cycle assessment of transparent silica aerogel made by supercritical drying

Mark Dowson, Michael Grogan, Timothy Birks, David Harrison, Salmaan Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 32 Citations

Abstract

When developing sustainable building fabric technologies, it is essential that the energy use and CO2 burden arising from manufacture does not outweigh the respective in-use savings. This study investigates this paradigm by carrying out a streamlined life cycle assessment (LCA) of silica aerogel. This unique, nanoporous translucent insulation material has the lowest thermal conductivity of any solid, retaining up to four times as much heat as conventional insulation, whilst being highly transparent to light and solar radiation. Monolithic silica aerogel has been cited as the 'holy grail' of future glazing technology. Alternatively, translucent granular aerogel is now being produced on a commercial scale. In each case, many solvents are used in production, often accompanied by intensive drying processes, which may consume large amounts of energy and CO2. To date, there has been no peer-reviewed LCA of this material conducted to the ISO 14000 standard. Primary data for this 'cradle-to-factory gate' LCA is collected for silica aerogel made by low and high temperature supercritical drying. In both cases, the mass of raw materials and electricity usage for each process is monitored to determine the total energy use and CO2 burden. Findings are compared against the predicted operational savings arising from retrofitting translucent silica aerogel to a single glazed window to upgrade its thermal performance. Results should be treated as a conservative estimate as the aerogel is produced in a laboratory, which has not been developed for mass manufacture or refined to reduce its environmental impact. Furthermore, the samples are small and assumptions to upscale the manufacturing volume occur without major changes to production steps or equipment used. Despite this, parity between the CO2 burden and CO2 savings is achieved in less than 2 years, indicating that silica aerogel can provide a measurable environmental benefit.
LanguageEnglish
Pages396-404
JournalApplied Energy
Volume97
DOIs
StatusPublished - Sep 2012

Fingerprint

Aerogels
Life cycle
Drying
life cycle
silica
Silica
savings
insulation
energy use
Insulation
Thermal conductivity of solids
thermal conductivity
solar radiation
electricity
Retrofitting
environmental impact
manufacturing
drying
Solar radiation
Environmental impact

Cite this

Streamlined life cycle assessment of transparent silica aerogel made by supercritical drying. / Dowson, Mark; Grogan, Michael; Birks, Timothy; Harrison, David; Craig, Salmaan.

In: Applied Energy, Vol. 97, 09.2012, p. 396-404.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Dowson, Mark ; Grogan, Michael ; Birks, Timothy ; Harrison, David ; Craig, Salmaan. / Streamlined life cycle assessment of transparent silica aerogel made by supercritical drying. In: Applied Energy. 2012 ; Vol. 97. pp. 396-404
@article{73cfe579ed1c4858889fb28a1fff887f,
title = "Streamlined life cycle assessment of transparent silica aerogel made by supercritical drying",
abstract = "When developing sustainable building fabric technologies, it is essential that the energy use and CO2 burden arising from manufacture does not outweigh the respective in-use savings. This study investigates this paradigm by carrying out a streamlined life cycle assessment (LCA) of silica aerogel. This unique, nanoporous translucent insulation material has the lowest thermal conductivity of any solid, retaining up to four times as much heat as conventional insulation, whilst being highly transparent to light and solar radiation. Monolithic silica aerogel has been cited as the 'holy grail' of future glazing technology. Alternatively, translucent granular aerogel is now being produced on a commercial scale. In each case, many solvents are used in production, often accompanied by intensive drying processes, which may consume large amounts of energy and CO2. To date, there has been no peer-reviewed LCA of this material conducted to the ISO 14000 standard. Primary data for this 'cradle-to-factory gate' LCA is collected for silica aerogel made by low and high temperature supercritical drying. In both cases, the mass of raw materials and electricity usage for each process is monitored to determine the total energy use and CO2 burden. Findings are compared against the predicted operational savings arising from retrofitting translucent silica aerogel to a single glazed window to upgrade its thermal performance. Results should be treated as a conservative estimate as the aerogel is produced in a laboratory, which has not been developed for mass manufacture or refined to reduce its environmental impact. Furthermore, the samples are small and assumptions to upscale the manufacturing volume occur without major changes to production steps or equipment used. Despite this, parity between the CO2 burden and CO2 savings is achieved in less than 2 years, indicating that silica aerogel can provide a measurable environmental benefit.",
author = "Mark Dowson and Michael Grogan and Timothy Birks and David Harrison and Salmaan Craig",
year = "2012",
month = "9",
doi = "10.1016/j.apenergy.2011.11.047",
language = "English",
volume = "97",
pages = "396--404",
journal = "Applied Energy",
issn = "0306-2619",
publisher = "Elsevier",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Streamlined life cycle assessment of transparent silica aerogel made by supercritical drying

AU - Dowson,Mark

AU - Grogan,Michael

AU - Birks,Timothy

AU - Harrison,David

AU - Craig,Salmaan

PY - 2012/9

Y1 - 2012/9

N2 - When developing sustainable building fabric technologies, it is essential that the energy use and CO2 burden arising from manufacture does not outweigh the respective in-use savings. This study investigates this paradigm by carrying out a streamlined life cycle assessment (LCA) of silica aerogel. This unique, nanoporous translucent insulation material has the lowest thermal conductivity of any solid, retaining up to four times as much heat as conventional insulation, whilst being highly transparent to light and solar radiation. Monolithic silica aerogel has been cited as the 'holy grail' of future glazing technology. Alternatively, translucent granular aerogel is now being produced on a commercial scale. In each case, many solvents are used in production, often accompanied by intensive drying processes, which may consume large amounts of energy and CO2. To date, there has been no peer-reviewed LCA of this material conducted to the ISO 14000 standard. Primary data for this 'cradle-to-factory gate' LCA is collected for silica aerogel made by low and high temperature supercritical drying. In both cases, the mass of raw materials and electricity usage for each process is monitored to determine the total energy use and CO2 burden. Findings are compared against the predicted operational savings arising from retrofitting translucent silica aerogel to a single glazed window to upgrade its thermal performance. Results should be treated as a conservative estimate as the aerogel is produced in a laboratory, which has not been developed for mass manufacture or refined to reduce its environmental impact. Furthermore, the samples are small and assumptions to upscale the manufacturing volume occur without major changes to production steps or equipment used. Despite this, parity between the CO2 burden and CO2 savings is achieved in less than 2 years, indicating that silica aerogel can provide a measurable environmental benefit.

AB - When developing sustainable building fabric technologies, it is essential that the energy use and CO2 burden arising from manufacture does not outweigh the respective in-use savings. This study investigates this paradigm by carrying out a streamlined life cycle assessment (LCA) of silica aerogel. This unique, nanoporous translucent insulation material has the lowest thermal conductivity of any solid, retaining up to four times as much heat as conventional insulation, whilst being highly transparent to light and solar radiation. Monolithic silica aerogel has been cited as the 'holy grail' of future glazing technology. Alternatively, translucent granular aerogel is now being produced on a commercial scale. In each case, many solvents are used in production, often accompanied by intensive drying processes, which may consume large amounts of energy and CO2. To date, there has been no peer-reviewed LCA of this material conducted to the ISO 14000 standard. Primary data for this 'cradle-to-factory gate' LCA is collected for silica aerogel made by low and high temperature supercritical drying. In both cases, the mass of raw materials and electricity usage for each process is monitored to determine the total energy use and CO2 burden. Findings are compared against the predicted operational savings arising from retrofitting translucent silica aerogel to a single glazed window to upgrade its thermal performance. Results should be treated as a conservative estimate as the aerogel is produced in a laboratory, which has not been developed for mass manufacture or refined to reduce its environmental impact. Furthermore, the samples are small and assumptions to upscale the manufacturing volume occur without major changes to production steps or equipment used. Despite this, parity between the CO2 burden and CO2 savings is achieved in less than 2 years, indicating that silica aerogel can provide a measurable environmental benefit.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84861823365&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2011.11.047

U2 - 10.1016/j.apenergy.2011.11.047

DO - 10.1016/j.apenergy.2011.11.047

M3 - Article

VL - 97

SP - 396

EP - 404

JO - Applied Energy

T2 - Applied Energy

JF - Applied Energy

SN - 0306-2619

ER -