Written by J.E. Pritchett, President Superior Products International II and inventor of Super Therm©
In the beginning, the reflective coating concept was very interesting in that using a single ceramic component to reflect surface heat from sun radiation was thought to be the best way to solve heat load. Within a couple of years, this idea that surface reflection would solve any heat load problem on surfaces was discovered to be wrong due to the fact that the coating would become dirty and stop reflecting.
As the established reflective companies continued to promote and sell this technology, J.E. Pritchett visited with his Uncle that worked at Red Stone in Alabama that was connected to NASA. He in turn guided him to the engineers that developed and designed the tiles for the shuttle. In working with these engineers for a short time, J.E. found that the ceramics used for the tiles would not work in a coating product when the environment of the compound changed drastically from dry to wet and mixed with other compounds.
Since none of this type of information could be found in any research books, he began to develop and set up Trial and Error procedures to test ceramic compounds in a base coating. The initial thought was that this would take 6 months and the compounds could be found to perform as planned and the coating completed. In the first 6 months, the initial sources were found. The first year, more sources were found. In the fourth year, it was finally decided what to look for in density, crystalline structure and material compound.
Now, after 30 years and over 3400 ceramic compounds, it was found which compounds actually do work in any environment, mixed with other compounds that will improve the performance, which compounds are good for radiation heat in the ambient atmosphere, which work over high temperature surfaces to block and hold heat and which are good for fire control. It was found that one compound alone could not fully perform the job needed. It always takes a combination of the correct ceramic compounds to efficiently perform the task needed. Each compound is doing a particular task in blocking, repelling or acting as a non-absorber to reduce the load and available transmission of heat.
In this process, it was uncovered that the current and very well established thought processes and systems for insulation materials are very flawed. In the process of dealing with the misunderstood “R” rating and trying to compare to this as a coating insulation for explanation purposes, J.E. provided Super Therm® (the ambient insulation coating designed for repelling and blocking radiation heat gain) to the labs for Bombardier Engineering. Bombardier decided to test directly against fiberglass to find if Super Therm® could outperform this type of insulation material that they had come to realise did not work inside the walls and ceilings of the passenger train cars being built at the time in Mexico City.
The ASTM C 236 Guarded Hot box test was chosen and VTEC labs in NY and International Labs in PA were selected to do the comparison testing as a combined team. When the results were obtained, it was found that fiberglass produced a K value of .52 at 3 inches. The Super Therm® produced a K value of .31 at 10 mils thick. Then when the coating was applied to both sides of the wall, the K value was .21. Of course, the lower the K value the better blockage of heat transfer.
This test was not in the sun, but was a measured test with a mechanical heat source at 73 °F in one room and the heat lost was measured to the opposite room at 0 F. Therefore, radiation heat was canceled out or the ability to only reflect sun radiation. This was the standard test for establishing the R rating for fiberglass as based on heat transfer. In the reference above, it is not only just fiberglass but all the thickness based forms of insulation that are in the same category of comparison.
Now is when the facts of how this test and how the R rating is established came to light for J.E. First, the temperature for the R rating testing is performed at only the 73°F temperature and no other temperature. This means that the R rating as stamped on all fiberglass is only good for 73°F. The “assumption” that this is good for all temperatures is completely wrong.
If tested above or below 73°F, the performance falls off dramatically as related by the labs. Since fiberglass is 90% air, any moisture over 1.5% humidity will dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the R value by a reduction of 35%. If any air currents are allowed to be present, the effectiveness is reduced dramatically. Then if in the installation, the fiberglass is compacted any at all, the reduced inch thickness will dramatically reduce the R value. Watch how the workers pack the fiberglass into a wall. If you reduce it from 6″ down to 3″ or 4″ when installed, you drop from R19 to R8 before any moisture is injected.
This is all to say that the “heat transfer” method of insulation is flawed in its’ concept and was never challenged when established back in the 70’s. It also allows for a 100% heat load onto the surface of the wall or roof. “Heat Transfer” then takes over to try and control how much and how fast this 100% heat load comes through and into the facility. This is considered 20th Century technology.
What the Super Therm® is designed to do for the 21st century insulation effort is to use the emissivity and reflective values of repelling and unloading heat loads. Emissivity is the ability of a surface to begin to load the heat and then throw it off at as high a percentage rate as possible. The reflectivity is the ability to block all three radiation waves (UV, Short Wave and Long Wave) from the sun and be specific about the ability to block these waves. The point of insulation like Super Therm® is to block the “loading” of surface heat during the heat of the day. You reduce the heat load, you reduce the heat transfer that is available to load into a wall or roof before it can transfer into a facility.
The most prime example of using the emissivity term wrongly is that concrete has an emissivity of .92. This is high, but is the concrete hot during the day and did it load and transfer through the wall? Yes. But at night, it can unload this surface heat quickly on the exterior. Even better example is the white car hood. White paint has a high emissivity to unload heat as explained by heat transfer methods. If this is so great, then sit on this hood during a 90 F day in good sun and tell me it is throwing off all the heat and not hot. This does not account for absorbing heat, it only accounts for throwing off heat when the radiation is blocked.
Even when the K values are established and everyone knows it is performing better than the standard insulation materials, many will take the K value and try and fit it into the inch thickness formula and claim how this means that you must divide the Super Therm® K value by 1000 mils to see what the R value is per mil. K value is K value at whatever thickness is tested and stands as a fact of reality. To try and fit it into a thick material reality is throwing out the facts given by the test. In reality, we do not compare to the thick materials nor do we want to. Heat load and transfer is something that happens at the surface of the substrate. Insulation begins here, not after a full loading of heat and now only works to try and slow the transfer speed.
Ceramics have come a long way from the high density form of making coffee cups to engines that can withstand high heat and resisting wear and tear to extremely light density ceramics that do not load heat and can repel heat loads. The understanding of this type of insulation is on the upswing in the engineering communities and architectural fields and being adopted to reduce heat loads as the means to control heat gain or lost.
R&D is an ongoing process at SPI for the reasons that there are many other compounds not yet tested for effectiveness. Since research has been very limited in any laboratory sittings and this is a pure cost with no assurance of success, the research done and continuing at SPI will propel us into the future with a very high expectation of success and discovery.
From the research on ceramics, a study of nano technology was natural and expected as the up and coming new areas of ceramic research. The nano provides many different avenues of progression and fields of endeavour because of the many different types of materials made in this size. From extreme hard surfaces, to a complete electrified wall surface capable of motion picture and presentation to telecommunications to insulation films not visible to the eye is upon us now. Very exciting!
SPI has worked on aerospace projects, heavy industry, oil and petrochemical plants to help with heat controls. Commercial and residential has been a focus of the uses over the past five years due to increased energy costs.