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Innovative multi-functional Vacuum-Insulation-Panels (VIPs) for use in the building sector

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - INNOVIP (Innovative multi-functional Vacuum-Insulation-Panels (VIPs) for use in the building sector)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2020-07-31

Effective insulation systems in buildings are key to optimizing their energy performance. Vacuum-Insulation-Panels (VIPs) are an extremely effective and space-saving solution. Currently, VIPs generally consist of a core of pressed pyrogenic silica or mineral fibres. By using a new type of protective envelope, optimized core-material formulations, cover-layers and functional coatings, the INNOVIP consortium aimed to enhance the competitiveness of this highly-efficient solution.

Even though modern VIPs are already very efficient, their performance deteriorates significantly over the years. The reason for this is an increase in internal pressure, caused by the slow penetration of air and humidity. This causes their thermal conductivity to increase, decreasing their insulation performance. The enhanced design for the envelopes, however, is able to slow down this degradation by reducing the amount of air and moisture that penetrate through the envelope. This guarantees good insulation performance for up to 50 years.

By combining several production steps, the production process becomes faster and cheaper. Additional cost-savings result from newly developed envelopes, which are cheaper due to their new layer structure and sealing techniques. Another innovation of the project is the use of cardboard boxes filled with loose fill core material instead of pressed boards, simplifying and accelerating production and ensuring better rectangularity and even edges. Overall, the manufacturing cost of VIPs will be reduced by at least 30%.

Another goal of the project was to not only improve the VIP core, but also provide protective cover-layers and additional functionalities. The cover layers are chosen to match specific applications of the INNOVIP, making handling and installation of the panel easier. Furthermore, extra functionalities regarding moisture control, antibacterial effect, fire retardancy, thermal control and VOC removal were also developed, further enhancing the performance of INNOVIP products optimized for certain applications.
An INNOVIP product consists of a VIP with a certain core material and envelope, cover layers and nano-coatings for additional functionalities. The overall design principle of INNOVIP products aims to combine these different components in a way that ensures the highest possible performance of the finished products in their respective application.

In WP1, it was possible to reach a thermal conductivity of 0.0030 W/(m*K) for loose-fill VIPs with an optimized powder composition and density (33-40% improvement). In later product samples, the density had to be increased again to ensure sufficient planarity and rectangularity, nevertheless still resulting in an improvement of 11-20%.

The new VIP envelopes in WP2 achieve a reduction of permeation of dry gases by a factor of 10. By combining all developments in WP2 (EVOH-layers, PVDC, Al-patches and ultrasonic welding), it was also possible to reduce the permeation of water vapor by a factor of 5-10. This enhances the durability and service-life of the VIP, easily reaching the target of 20% improvement.

Within the scope of WP3, thermal simulations considering different cover layers, thermal bridges and edge-strips were conducted. From this, it was possible to draw valuable conclusions for the design of the final products. Furthermore, five extra functionalities resulting from nano-coatings were developed and validated: Moisture control and antibacterial effect, fire retardancy effect, thermal control and VOC removal.

In WP4 (production), it was possible to simplify some production steps and to use loose-fill cardboard VIPs instead of pressed boards, resulting in a 20-30 % reduction in production costs. Furthermore, a thorough production process for the combined production of perlite and loose-fill VIPs was developed and tested in a small demonstrator machine.

In the scope of WP5, LCC and LCA calculations were conducted. It could be shown that both embodied and operational energy are easily reduced by at least 15 % and it can therefore be assumed that this objective is also reached on a combined carbon approach. Extensive recycling trials, showed that all components of an INNOVIP product can be recycled and reused.

The INNOVIP products and components were thoroughly characterized in WP6. Furthermore, design verification testing of the final product was conducted to assure that the INNOVIP products meet the expected operational and environmental specifications. This led to a set of parameters preliminary tested to ensure a timely CE-declaration after start of the production of the INNOVIP panels and in parallel proofing the high performance of the insulation product.

In WP7, the process of assembling an INNOVIP product from its sub-components was investigated. This included trials for different cover layers and different techniques to apply them (e.g. gluing and foaming tests). With the most promising solutions, different prototypes for roof, floor and wall application were realized and provided for characterization and full-scale demonstration sites in WP8.

Demonstration work took place in WP8, where parts of two buildings located in Poland and Portugal were insulated with INNOVIP panels both in wall and roof applications. By doing so, it was possible to evaluate the material application from a contractor’s point of view and to set up a long-term monitoring to validate the performance of the new products.

In WP9, exploitation plans representing the individual business perspectives for each participant concerning the INNOVIP results were developed. Dissemination activities included the participation in a large number of workshops, conferences, etc. by different partners throughout the project’s duration. There were 8 scientific theses completed within the scope of the project as well as 7 scientific publications. The final dissemination event of INNOVIP, “Building the Future 2020”, featured 9 speakers and reached 64 attendees in a 3-hour webinar.
Compared to State-of-the-Art VIPs, the cost could be reduced substantially due to different aspects of the new INNOVIP products:
1) Less production steps and faster process for the production of VIPs with loosely filled cardboard boxes (20-30% red.);
2) Novel high barrier bi-laminates with enhanced performance compared to state of the art bi- and tri-laminates (10% red.);
3) Ultrasonic Welding eliminating the need for heat-sealable laminate layers, such as LD-PE (5-10 % red.).

Cardboard VIPs reached a 11-20 % improvement of insulation properties compared to state-of-the-art VIPs due to their optimized core material composition. By further reducing the density, the thermal conductivity can be lowered further (up to 40 % improvement), but related issues with rectangularity and planarity still have to be solved.

The long-term performance of the INNOVIP products was improved significantly by the implementation of different innovative envelope developments, including EVOH and PVDC in the layer-structures of the laminates, Al-foil patches on-top of the envelopes, along with the ultrasonic welding technique, lead to an overall improvement of at least 25% in thermal performance over the total service life.

Further improvements compared to a state-of-the-art VIP are related to handling and additional functionalities and result from cover layers and nano-coatings, tailored for specific applications in the building sector.