Abstract

The conventional manufacturing processes of aerogel insulation material is largely relying on the supercritical drying, which suffers from issues of massive energy consumption, high-cost equipment, and prolonged processing time. With the consideration of large market demand of the aerogel insulation material in the next decade, a low-cost and scalable fabrication technique is highly desired. In this paper, a direct ink writing (DIW) method is used to three-dimensionally fabricate the silica aerogel insulation material, followed by room-temperature and ambient pressure drying. Compared to the supercritical drying and freeze-drying, the reported method significantly reduces the fabrication time and costs. The cost-effective DIW technique offers the capability to print complex hollow internal structures, coupled with the porous structure, is found to be beneficial to the thermal insulation property. The addition of fiber to the ink assures the durability of the fabricated product, without sacrificing the thermal insulation performance. The foam ink preparation methods and the printability are demonstrated in this paper, along with the printing of complex three-dimensional geometries. The thermal insulation performance of the printed objects is characterized, and the mechanical properties are also examined. The proposed approach is found to have 56% reduction in the processing time. The printed silica aerogels exhibit a low thermal conductivity of 0.053 W m−1 K−1.

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