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Climate Tech Startup ThermaGEL Innovations’ Breakthrough Aerogels Join the Challenge to Save Half-Gigaton of C02 Emissions Each Year

In the fight against climate change, properly insulating homes and buildings can significantly raise energy efficiency and indoor air quality while lowering carbon dioxide emissions. A startup company, spun out of research at Virginia Commonwealth University, is commercializing what it calls a breakthrough in low-cost insulation materials.

ThermaGEL Innovations has developed insulation material using aerogels, which are porous solids mostly made of air. The company says its aerogel insulation improves heat resistance, known as R-value, by 136% over conventional materials such as fiberglass. Its aerogels are also significantly thinner, lightweight, flame-proof, moisture-proof and reduce noise.

“Aerogels were invented nearly a century ago; however, the process to make them is complex and expensive,” said Marc McConnaughey, president and chief executive of ThermaGEL. “What VCU has achieved with aerogel development and production processes could have a significant, positive impact on the environment and support a more sustainable future.”

The science behind the company comes from the laboratory of physics professor Massimo Bertino, Ph.D., at VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences. The key to making aerogels at a lower cost is to eliminate the supercritical drying process in a way that doesn’t compromise the integrity of the insulation, according to Dr. Bertino.

Critical to driving ThermaGEL’s revenue, McConnaughey said, is providing its products to building material suppliers, contractors, and architects. The company is in the process of raising initial funding to design an aerogel manufacturing facility in the Richmond area.

Dr. Everett Carpenter, the company adviser and VCU Professor of Chemistry, said the facility could capture five percent of the U.S. insulation market, which overall is valued at $10 billion annually. Initial capacity will be designed to produce 750 million square feet of insulation per year.

According to ThermaGEL research, the U.S. contains 122 million homes and six million commercial buildings, mostly built before 1990. Together, Carpenter said, those buildings use one-third of total U.S. energy consumption, with much of it lost due to poor insulation. That leads to higher energy costs and increased carbon dioxide emissions.

“ThermaGEL’s technology could truly help commercial building owners and homeowners save not only on energy costs when it comes to insulation,” he said, “but help the world by removing billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere along the way.”

 

Learn more here.

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