Population growth has significantly increased the energy consumption of the building sector, which is currently 32% of the total global energy demand. Energy use for residential and commercial heating and cooling is projected to strongly grow until 2050, increasing by 79% and 84%, respectively, compared to 2010 . Development of high performance thermal insulation materials is crucial to saving space and energy, increasing comfort, and decreasing environmental impact, cost, and complexity. Aerogels are a promising high-performance type of thermal insulation for both stationary and mobile applications. The thermal performance of insulations is typically judged by their reported R-value (thermal resistance); however, this value may differ from the in-service R-value for reasons such as temperature and humidity variations as well as mechanical compression.In this research, the thermal performance of aerogel blanket super insulation is thoroughly studied under various operating conditions, i.e., temperature, compression, and humidity. The microstructure of commercially available aerogel blankets was characterized using microscopy, porosimetry and spectroscopy. A comprehensive set of accurate analytical models were developed and verified experimentally to predict the thermal and mechanical performance of aerogel blankets in dry and humid conditions. These models can be utilized to predict the thermal performance of the insulation for building envelopes and other large-scale applications. Furthermore, the design of such materials can be improved by performing an optimization study on the microstructural and morphological properties of aerogel blankets using the developed analytical models.The results of the aerogel blanket performance modeling and measurements indicated that mechanical load on the material, elevated temperature and high humidity decrease the R-value of aerogel blankets. These factors should be considered in the thermal insulation design and selection for an application to benefit the most from this super insulation material.
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Thesis advisor: Bahrami, Majid
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