The application of traditional thermal insulation materials requires thicker building envelopes in order to satisfy the requirements of the emerging zero energy and zero emission buildings. This work summarizes the steps from the state-of-theart thermal insulation materials and solutions, like vacuum insulation panels (VIP), gas-filled panels (GFP) and aerogels which all have various drawbacks, to our concepts and experimental investigations for making superinsulation materials (SIM) like e.g. nano insulation materials (NIM).
Glass represents an important and widely used building material, and crucial aspects to be addressed include thermal conductivity, visible light transmittance, and weight for windows with improved energy efficiency. In this work, by sintering monolithic silica aerogel precursors at elevated temperatures, aerogel glass materials were successfully prepared, which were characterized by low thermal conductivity [k ≈ 0.17–0.18 W/(mK)], high visible transparency (Tvis ≈ 91–96 % at 500 nm), low density (ρ ≈ 1.60–1.79 g/cm3), and enhanced mechanical strength (typical elastic modulus Er ≈ 2.0–6.4 GPa). These improved properties were derived from a series of successive gelation and aging steps during the desiccation of silica aerogels. The involved sol → gel → glass transformation was investigated by means of thermo-gravimetric analysis, scanning electron microscopy, nanoindentation, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Strategies of improving further the mechanical strength of the obtained aerogel glass materials are also discussed.