As a result of their extremely low thermal conductivity, their nanoporous structure and their low weight, aerogels are ideally suitable as thermal insulation. They enable sustainable lightweight-construction applications in the smallest of spaces - for example, in buildings, cars, trains, ships, airplanes and spaceships. In addition, aerogels can – depending on the raw material and the specific manufacturing process – also be deployed to achieve good soundproofing and fire-protection properties.
Due to their good adsorption effect on volatile organic compounds, aerogels are furthermore suitable as pollutant-adsorbing filter materials in ventilation and air-conditioning equipment and systems. People in Germany and other industrialized nations spend a large portion of the day in vehicles and buildings. Indoor air quality therefore plays a major role in health and well-being. The market for air filters and air purifiers has been increasing for years. Up to now, there has been very little research conducted on the use of organic aerogels as pollutant adsorbers, in particular in filters. In addition to being highly sustainable, filters made from organic aerogels could offer a further advantage: There is justified hope that the current adsorption rates for chemical pollutants can be significantly improved through aerogels. This is being investigated in the project.
Whilst the first aerogels were made from silicon dioxide, versatile starting materials are now available that can be obtained from, amongst other things, renewable raw materials such as cellulose, lignin or starch, or from polysaccharides. Even renewable raw materials are, however, not infinitely available. With the manufacturing process for aerogels developed in the project, we enable high-quality recycling of waste and production residues derived from wood. As waste wood accumulates in many places around the world, the project also creates a possibility for producing aerogel materials where they are to be used - which reduces transport distances. And there is more: the aerogels should be materially recyclable. We will design them in such a way that, at the end of their service life, the raw materials that they contain can be extensively recovered in order to be utilized in the production of new aerogels or other high-quality products. In this way, we aim to achieve a closed production cycle in the sense of a resource-efficient bioeconomy, thereby reducing the burden on the environment as a source of raw materials.
The project serves the climate goals of the German government and the Charta für Holz 2.0 (Charter for wood 2.0).