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Insulation is one of the most important components of every refrigerating appliances. Increasing ecological concerns and new energy regulations are forcing the refrigeration appliance manufacturers to develop appliances with reduced energy consumption. Vacuum insulation panel (VIP) technology seems to be one of the most promising solutions for the achievement of reduced energy consumption in many fields. Evacuated insulation enables a VIP to have approximately 5-10 times higher thermal resistance than the conventional insulators. VIPs are generally made with porous core materials wrapped, under vacuum, in airtight films. VIPs have approximately 5-10 times higher thermal resistance than the conventional insulators. Core materials play a crucial role in thermal performance, mechanical properties and overall cost of VIPs. Commonly used core materials are silica-based powders and glass wool. It is well-known that the costs of VIP core materials contribute significantly towards the higher cost of VIP. The main objective of this study is to develop cost effective novel porous core materials with high thermal insulation properties that can be used as core insulation filler in VIPs. It is aimed to develop cost-effective VIP with thermal conductivity of approximately 4 mW/m.K. To achieve this goal, porous silica materials were developed using triblock self-assembled polymers as structure directing compounds. Then, nano porous silica material was mixed with low cost silica-based materials such as fly ash, diatoms and perlite to prepare low-cost VIP core material with high thermal insulation properties. Thermal conductivity and the cost of VIPs produced in this study are 3.9 mW/m.K – 4.3 mW/m.K and 15 – 9.9 Euro/m2 (25 mm thickness), respectively. The cost of VIPs is reduced approximately 70 % without loosing thermal insulation properties. By using VIPs developed in this project, 30% of energy saving and 25% of volume increase can be obtained in the refrigerators. Moreover, by using VIPs in refrigerators, each year 60 billion kWh could be saved after replacing old refrigerates with new energy efficient ones, which is production of about 6 nuclear power plants. Needless to say, VIPs provide excellent thermal resistance properties that can enhance energy efficiency of the insulating systems and have a big impact on reduction of green house emissions. This study will contribute directly in developing alternative resources for energy saving applications so this project is complementary with the European Union objectives and contribute EU to achieve 20% energy saving target in 2020. The proposed study will also contribute to Kyoto Protocol, aimed at fighting global warming.
In conclusion, very impressive results were obtained from the Marie Curie project. In this project, very cost effective and high performance VIPs were developed and by using the results from this study, Arcelik has decided to build a VIP plant to produce its own VIP panels for refrigerators. Currently, by using the outcomes of this project, Arcelik is producing VIPs in serial production to use in the refrigerators. Moreover, the outcomes of this project will also help the widespread usage of VIP technology not only for applications in cold appliances but also in building insulation.