The Facts about Ceramic Compounds and Insulation

By Hermann

How does Ceramic Insulation compared to Standard Insulation materials

The standard insulation materials used worldwide are designed to absorb heat. This is why they require thickness in order to show performance. The heat contacts one side of the standard material which immediately absorbs and loads into the material. Physics is at work because heat goes to the cool. Thickness is a must because as the heat absorbs and rises, it travels faster through the material. In order to slow the time period in which the heat enters the cool side, thickness buys time. As in the advertising, if it is not working well add more thickness. 

Over time, it has been realized by consumer watch agencies that the standard insulation is specified according to an R-value. When the material is placed into a wall unit, the wall cavity is only ½ the thickness of the material and the compaction reduces the actual R-value given. Aging and settling of the material also reduces the initial performance. Moisture from climates and humidity reduces the R-value dramatically in a short period of time. 

All these factors come with these types of standard insulation materials and they are only placed and effective between studs or roof joist leaving 17% of the wall not insulated. Many leading engineering groups world-wide have performed testing showing how ambient temperatures, over 75F (24C) (the testing temp requirement for these materials) reduces the R-value immediately for these standard wraps. 

Given the standard insulation technology used for years that helped resist the gain or loss of heat, the study of ceramics has been performed to finds ways to overcoat the problems facing all standard materials. Compaction, moisture load, temperature changes from lab norm and the required thickness lowing the conduction rate are the main problems in controlling heat loss and gain. 

Over the years, much has been stated about what a ceramic insulation compound is or should be that could offer insulation. Starting with NASA working with ceramic compounds for the tiles of the shuttle and many other industrial engineers searching for better methods of insulation, the term ceramic has been researched. Unfortunately, most all the claims for ceramic compounds and how they “should” perform was only based on speculation and what is known from which ceramic compounds respond in dry state. One firm in the US has taken the time and effort to study ceramic compounds one at a time to find which one actually works when mixed with paint resins and other paint related materials while continuing to perform to block and repel heat waves. Early on, it was discovered that a dry compound could perform very well to reflect or repel heat, but when this same compound was mixed into a paint formula, the performance was totally eliminated due to it not being dry and able to work alone.

This left only one way to determine the ability of a compound to perform as needed, and that was to place the compound into a test formula and then test each compound under heat sources to see if the dry film could block heat from loading onto the facing side and transferred to the cool side. This process was a trial and error approach on each compound added in different loads to see which if any load would work. After 30 years and over 7,000 compounds tested, approximately 12 compounds were found to continue to provide insulation ability when mixed into a paint formula. This is not found in any engineering book or study paper written from theories based on dry performance. This is proven by R&D testing of each compound individually. The process continued to find the compounds that did perform and find combinations that would bring different compounds working on different heat waves to perform together for the best overall effect. 

What was discovered was that specific ceramics compounds work on different heat waves. This involves sizes and types of mineral compounding. How this relates to coatings for different insulation functions is that a thin film coating (250 microns) 10 mils holding four selected compounds face the three heat waves from the sun (UV, Short and Long wave) to effectively block the heat from penetrating through the coating film in order to heat the surface under the film. If the radiation heat wave is blocked and repelled back to the atmosphere, the surface stays ambient which allows the cooling on the interior to be efficient. This particular formulation has been tested in the US located in a harsh climate of cold, snow, ice, wind, storms and very hot in summers for now over 30 years. The Japanese research group studied this roof exposure for 15 years and cut sections of the roof to retest in the JIS labs to show the continued heat repelling ability showing a loss of 8% from newly applied to 15 years later. The study continued for now 31 years and performance is stable with the 15 year re-testing and only a 20% loss of thickness. The coating film is facing the elements daily on a metal roof structure. 

This is the thin film version for insulation of roofs, walls and equipment. Further research was continued for the years to find the compounds that could not just repel heat waves but be applied over hot surfaces to block and hold the heat from escaping from the surface to the atmosphere to be loss. The idea of heat leaving the surface is considered loss immediately at that point. Therefore, the ceramic compounds used for this type of insulation are totally different from compounds facing radiation waves. There is no repelling or bouncing of heat waves. There in only “blocking” of heat transmission from the hot surface off into the atmosphere. This required completely different ceramic compounds that are designed to resist any loading of heat. Seven different compounds are required performing different ways of blocking heat loss. It was quickly realized that one compound alone could not be effective enough to block the heat especially as the temperature would rise up into the levels of 650C (1200F). 

There is some theory in the market that one thick coating film can be applied to repel radiation heat waves and at the same time, block heat loss from a surface. As described above, this requires different types of ceramic compounds to work effectively but are very specific in performance. Therefore, no one type of ceramic load can do both reflectivity of heat waves and also resistance heat loss off a hot surface. This theory is like the earlier ideas of how ceramic should work but does not fit reality. 

A very realistic method was developed from the high heat blocking ceramics used in a thick film of 6mm up to 75mm according to level of heat. During the studies, an engineering formula was developed where when given the size (diameter) of pipe, length, thickness of steel, the calculation can be made from knowing the internal temperature and exterior temperature desired, the exact coating thickness can be given to achieve the result. This is proven in the field. 

In conclusion, the term ceramic must be understood by everyone to understand that this term is used for many compounds. The marketing of ceramic coatings needs to be understood that just because the term is used, the manufacturer may only use one type of compound and relying on the theory that this works for thin or thick insulation use; when in fact, the choice of ceramic compounds must be studied and identified as the correct compounds for each job performance. As mentioned, there is one such manufacturer known that has the research covering over 7,000 compounds and 30 years to understand ceramic compounds in order to know which compounds are best for each use. These compounds were then used properly to develop a four ceramic compound thin coating for reflectivity of radiation heat waves and another seven-load compound blend for extreme heat insulation applied “while” in operation and no shut down. Imagine spraying on a water-based ceramic coating on a 650C pipe surface at 50mm and laying your hand on it without burning. Proof of performance is immediate and clear. 

Finally, as standard insulation materials are designed to “absorb” all the heat and use thickness to slow down the time it takes to transfer all this heat to the cool side, unique ceramic coatings are designed to block and repel radiation heat from the sun to block out 95% of the heat “available for transfer to the cool side”. Secondly, unique ceramic coatings designed specifically to block heat loss off hot surfaces, holding the heat on the surface, keeping the heat inside the unit to increase the efficiency and reduce operation cost and lastly protecting workers. These characteristics is why properly designed ceramic coatings outperform and out last standard insulation materials worldwide. 

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