Thermal insulation has a lot of industrial applications, as it reduces of the effects of the various processes of heat transfer between objects in thermal contact or in range of radiative influence. Examples go from building construction and mechanical insulation for pipes, aircrafts and refrigerators to clothing.

V.1: Related Industrial Topics

  • Building materials: concrete, insulators, films, rigid structural foam, pipes and conduits, barrier layers (water, air, radon)
  • Solar thermal technologies, control systems, storage of heat, heat recovery
  • Photovoltaic panels, storage systems (batteries), thermo-cameras, inverters, links to electricity grid
  • Measurement of heat conductivity, heat loss; thermal imaging
  • External cladding

V.2: Industry Link: Building Materials – Insulation Properties, Thermocameras

Focal Organisations: Cement Roadstone Holdings, Istituto Giordano S.p.A., R&D innovAction, FLIR Systems, inc.

Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH) is a leading international building materials manufacturer and distributor. The company was founded in Ireland in 1970 by the merger of Irish Cement Ltd. and Roadstone Ltd. and now operates in 35 countries globally with annual sales of over €20 billion. CRH shares are listed on the Irish, London and New York stock exchanges. The product range is vast and includes cement, lime, aggregates, asphalt, ready-mixed concrete, pre-cast concrete products, clay products, glass and insulation materials. Energy efficiency is a major focus of the European Construction Industry and some of the most efficient buildings in the world are being constructed using products manufactured by CRH companies.

Istituto Giordano S.p.A. (IG) is a Contract Research Organisation, classified as a “Centre of Excellence” in the assistance of Industrial SMEs in R&D, Innovation and Technology Transfer activities.

Established in 1959, IG today employs 120 employees (50% graduates) + 130 inspectors. IG 2010 turnover was more than11 Million Euros. More than 285 thousands certificates and test reports issued up to July 2011. IG’s fields of activity comprise: Testing. R&D and TT on Building/Construction Materials & Components, Heat Technology, Fire Safety, Thermo-mechanical and Plants, Transportation, Electric, Chemistry, Naval.

R&D innovAction (R&DI) aims at identifying innovative solutions to improve the competitive advantages of its customers in terms of compliance with technical and economic sustainability. Based in Milan (Italy), it carries out research, development, industrialization and commercialization of innovative products and services at high technological content, mainly in the field of Materials, Process, Energy Efficiency, Renewables and Environment. R&D innovAction cooperates with leading companies in Italy and abroad to develop new Services for energy efficiency by monitoring consumption and providing Energy Management support to identify inefficiencies.

FLIR Systems, Incis a leading manufacturer of innovative imaging systems that include infrared cameras, aerial broadcast cameras and machine vision systems. 
Pioneers in the commercial infrared camera industry, the company has been supplying thermography and night vision equipment to science, industry, law enforcement and the military for over 50 years. From predictive maintenance, condition monitoring, non-destructive testing, R&D, medical science, temperature measurement and thermal testing to law enforcement, surveillance, security and manufacturing process control, FLIR offers the widest selection of infrared cameras for beginners to pros.

Examples of ICK application on Thermal insulation

1. Heating and Insulation in the home

An effective way to save energy in the home is to reduce heating costs. In terms of construction, this can be achieved by:

•   building a structure that is free of draughts.

•   improving insulation levels

•   avoiding large temperature fluctuations by utilising the thermal mass.of materials.

Building materials providers supply products to assist with all of these measures.

2. Heat Loss from a House

Much heat is lost from a house by conduction through the material of the floor, walls, windows, doors and roof. The conductive efficiency of materials is usually expressed in terms of their U-values, expressed as watts per square metre kelvin (W/m2K). A material with high thermal resistance has a low U-value. The inverse of the U-value is called the R-value.

3. Avoiding Temperature Fluctuations

A standard way of constructing external walls of houses is to use two layers of concrete block with a cavity between them. The cavity may contain a suitable insulating material. The temperature of the outer layer of the wall varies with the external temperature. The insulated inner layer acts as a heat store. It absorbs heat when the inside temperature rises during the day and releases it when the temperature drops at night. By using the thermal mass of concrete in this way, the inside air temperature is maintained at a relatively stable level, resulting in a more comfortable living environment and a more efficient use of energy. Another form of construction is the externally insulated single leaf concrete block wall.

4. Insulation in refrigerators 

The best way to make efficient refrigerators is to use different types of thermal insulators in their construction. Depending on the type of refrigeration device, the insulator may be a vacuum, styrofoam or a type of fiberglass. The main aim of a refrigerator insulator is to keep outside thermal energy from getting in the refrigerator, which is, therefore, kept cold with less electric power consumption. The insulation is generally in a place we can't see it, i.e. inside the refrigerator walls. Thermal energy outside the refrigerator has a very hard time permeating the wall of the refrigerator, extending the duration of food inside the refrigerator in case of electric blackout.

Low-cost home refrigerators are mainly equipped with rigid foam board insulation, as it provides affordable, adequate protection against thermal energy loss from the appliance. Rigid foam board insulation is typically made from polystyrene or polyurethane. These insulating boards are resistant to moisture and have a high thermal resistance (R) value. R is a rating for the insulation's efficiency: the higher it is, the more effective the product will be in reducing thermal energy loss.

Another widely method used for reducing thermal energy loss in domestic refrigerator/freezers and improve their energy efficiency is to use Gas-Filled Panel thermal insulation technology. Gas-Filled panels contain a low-conductivity, inert gas at atmospheric pressure and employ a reflective baffle to suppress radiation and convection within the gas. (see B. T. Griffith, D. Arasteh, and D. Türler paper (link below) for more details).

5. Infrared Thermography

Surface temperature has started to play a major role in both audits and energy surveys, as it can be used to evaluate the condition of the building itself as well as the electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems.

Energy Performance Certificates

EU Directive 2002/91/EC calls on .Member States to ‘ensure that, when buildings are constructed, sold or rented out, an energy performance certificate is made available to the owner or by the owner to the prospective buyer or tenant...’

V.3: References and Links

the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (

 The following relevant items are all available in Science and Technology in Action (

 In each part of the Designing a Low Energy Home Unit, examples will be supplied about how conduction, convection, and radiation are considered in choosing materials for buildings and designing a heating system and in explaining  how environmental factors such as wind, solar angle, and temperature affect design of houses.