Applications of Thermal Insulators

Applications of Thermal Insulators


The purpose of clothing is similar. The insulating properties of clothing come from the insulating properties of air. Gases possess poor thermal conduction properties compared to liquids and solids, and thus makes a good insulation material if they can be trapped (e.g. in a foam-like structure). Air and other gases are generally good insulators. But the main benefit is in the absence of convection. Without clothes, our bodies in still air would heat the air in direct contact with the skin and would soon become reasonably comfortable because air is a very good insulator. It must be added, also in this case air will be flowing due to natural convection. In natural convection, air surrounding a body receives heat and by thermal expansion becomes less dense and rises. Thermal expansion of air plays a crucial role. In other words, heavier (more dense) components will fall, while lighter (less dense) components rise, leading to bulk air movement.

In the wind, the warm air surrounding our body would be replaced by cold air, thus increasing the temperature difference and the heat loss from the body. Clothes constitute a barrier to this moving air. The main benefit is in the absence of large-scale convection. Moreover, clothes are made from materials, which are generally good insulators. Many insulating materials (e.g. wool) function simply by having a large number of gas-filled pockets which prevent large-scale convection. Alternation of gas pocket and solid material causes that the heat must be transferred through many interfaces causing rapid decrease in heat transfer coefficient.

Building Insulation

In order to minimize heat losses in industry and also in construction of buildings, thermal insulation is widely used. The purpose of thermal insulation is to reduce the overall heat transfer coefficient by adding materials with low thermal conductivity.  Thermal insulation in buildings is an important factor to achieving thermal comfort for its occupants. Thermal insulation reduces unwanted heat loss and also reduce unwanted heat gain. Therefore thermal insulation can decrease the energy demands of heating and cooling systems. It must be added, there is no material which can completely prevent heat losses, heat losses can be only minimized.

Similarly as for clothing, thermal insulation is based on low thermal conductivity materials and on its geometry (e.g. double-pane windows). The insulating properties of these materials come from the insulating properties of air. Many insulating materials (e.g. wool) function simply by having a large number of gas-filled pockets which prevent large-scale convection. Geometry of these materials plays also crucial role. For example,  increasing the width of the air layer, such as using two panes of glass separated by an air gap, will reduce the heat loss more than simply increasing the glass thickness, since the thermal conductivity of air is much less than that for glass.

Heat Transfer:
  1. Fundamentals of Heat and Mass Transfer, 7th Edition. Theodore L. Bergman, Adrienne S. Lavine, Frank P. Incropera. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2011. ISBN: 9781118137253.
  2. Heat and Mass Transfer. Yunus A. Cengel. McGraw-Hill Education, 2011. ISBN: 9780071077866.
  3. U.S. Department of Energy, Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 2 of 3. May 2016.

Nuclear and Reactor Physics:

  1. J. R. Lamarsh, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA (1983).
  2. J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.
  3. W. M. Stacey, Nuclear Reactor Physics, John Wiley & Sons, 2001, ISBN: 0- 471-39127-1.
  4. Glasstone, Sesonske. Nuclear Reactor Engineering: Reactor Systems Engineering, Springer; 4th edition, 1994, ISBN: 978-0412985317
  5. W.S.C. Williams. Nuclear and Particle Physics. Clarendon Press; 1 edition, 1991, ISBN: 978-0198520467
  6. G.R.Keepin. Physics of Nuclear Kinetics. Addison-Wesley Pub. Co; 1st edition, 1965
  7. Robert Reed Burn, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Operation, 1988.
  8. U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Physics and Reactor Theory. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.
  9. Paul Reuss, Neutron Physics. EDP Sciences, 2008. ISBN: 978-2759800414.

Advanced Reactor Physics:

  1. K. O. Ott, W. A. Bezella, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Statics, American Nuclear Society, Revised edition (1989), 1989, ISBN: 0-894-48033-2.
  2. K. O. Ott, R. J. Neuhold, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Dynamics, American Nuclear Society, 1985, ISBN: 0-894-48029-4.
  3. D. L. Hetrick, Dynamics of Nuclear Reactors, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48453-2.
  4. E. E. Lewis, W. F. Miller, Computational Methods of Neutron Transport, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48452-4.

See above:

Heat Losses