The theory of heat transfer through low density insulating materials explains the importance of thermal radiation in the overall heat transfer. As a matter of fact, in many semitransparent insulating materials, radiation has a considerable influence on measured thermal conductivity. In this work we continue the investigation (both experimentally and theoretically) on the heat transfer through low density insulating materials that we started some years ago and whose results have been presented in some International Conferences. Test have been done on low density insulating materials: expanded polystyrene with a density of 10 kg/m3 and polyester fibres with a density of 9 kg/m3 (these last tests are not yet completed and will not be discussed in this paper). The transfer factor T was measured in the heat flow meter apparatus of our laboratory [1]. The first measurements have been done with the two surfaces of the apparatus uncoated (emissivity ε = 0.91) at a mean test temperature of 283 K (10 °C) and then with the specimens enclosed in the aluminium foils (emissivity ε = 0.045) at the same mean test temperature. The results obtained from the measurements of the transfer factor T pointed out that a change of the emissivity ε of the surfaces from 0.91 to 0.045 caused a considerable decreasing of the transfer factor. Then the same panels have been cut into two slices and the aluminium foil has been interposed also between the slices, as shield, and the transfer factor was measured again in both cases: at first with the surfaces of the apparatus uncoated and then with the surfaces of the apparatus coated with the aluminium foils. In both cases the decreasing of the transfer factor τ was not negligible. The radiation extinction parameters have been then measured with a spectrometer and a model has been found to predict the transfer factor T in function of the testing conditions. We can conclude that in presence of a thin reflective metal cover placed on a low density insulating material, the thermal conductivity decrease immediately (about 7%) with a significant improvement of the thermal characteristics of the insulating material. If we put then some low emissivity foils between the slices of the material, another considerable decreasing of the thermal conductivity can be obtained (about 10%) and in presence of both aluminum foils (inside and outside). This fact confirms the importance of the contribution of radiation in thermal transmissivity of low density insulating materials and gives the possibility to reduce and to predict the thermal performances of such a material.

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