Several scientists at the Nanjing Forestry University in China, as reported by the American Chemical Society’s Nano Letters publication, have created a new insulation material made of wood. The scientists connected nanocrystals of wood cellulose with silanes (silicon compounds) to create an aerogel foam that has a visible light reflectance of 96% and an emittance in the infrared of 92% (which means it quickly rejects heat absorbed). Current materials either don’t reflect visible light well and therefore heat up quickly in the summer, or don’t hold up well in hot, humid climates. The material is also tunable – that is, the performance can be modified by expanding or compressing the material.

Experiments conducted with the material showed a box insulated with the material was 16°F cooler inside than the outside environment. During humid weather, it was still 13°F cooler. The researchers suggest building cooling costs can be reduced by about a third with the material. – Steve Terry, DTC HVAC & Refrigeration Instructor

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