Product application in the industry

Aerogel is soaring! How far is it from the real explosive growth period?

Since its invention in the 1930s, aerogel has set up up to 15 "Guinness World Records", such as the solid material with the lowest thermal conductivity and density. It has very magical physical and chemical properties, so it is also used in many fields such as industry, petrochemical, aerospace, national defense, automobile, etc.

At the previous conference on the promotion and application of aerogels held in China, a conclusion was reached that the aerogel industry is full of prospects, and professional institutions immediately gave a quantitative judgment. It is estimated that the market space of aerogel materials in three years' time could reach as high as 16 billion yuan, with a compound growth rate of even more than 40%.

Can the "heat insulation king" aerogel of the sudden fire really grow as expected? Can the dream of 10 billion track come true? Little padded jacket will show you the truth today.

1. A sharp tool for energy conservation and consumption reduction

Speaking of the preparation process of aerogels, it is simply a series of reactions from inorganic or organosilicon source precursors, the most critical step of which is drying, which plays a crucial role in the performance of aerogels.

Preparation process of aerogel

What is behind the gel fire? Low carbon is a very important key word. The most direct manifestation is that it has been officially listed in the promotion catalog of energy-saving and low carbon technologies, and the standards of the gel industry have been gradually established in recent years, putting forward more specific requirements for the research and development of aerogel materials.

If the industrial chain of aerogel is opened, the upstream is silicon based, and the downstream applications are distributed in all walks of life. Among them, oil and gas and industrial thermal insulation are the most widely used sub tracks. In 2021, oil and gas projects will account for about 56% of the downstream applications of aerogel, and industrial thermal insulation will account for 18%, accounting for more than 70% of the total.

Aerogel industry chain

Why the oil and gas industry? Because aerogel material can be used for heat preservation and energy saving of transmission pipeline, it can directly reduce heat loss. For example, the medium pressure steam pipeline reconstruction of Huachang Chemical and the thermal insulation of PetroChina's ancient natural gas heat conducting oil pipeline all use aerogel. It is also understood that Sinopec publicly purchased about 10 cubic meters of aerogel materials last year.

Some bidding projects of CNPC

2. New track, new logic

If traditional fields such as oil and construction have not attracted too many investors' attention, does the emergence of new energy vehicles open new imagination space for aerogels?

The important power of new energy vehicles comes from the power lithium battery system, which determines the driving performance, safety performance and life of new energy vehicles. The power lithium battery system is generally composed of battery module, battery management system BMS, thermal management system and some electrical and mechanical systems. The power battery system will generate a lot of heat in the narrow battery box during the working process. If the heat cannot be dissipated quickly in time, the life and performance of the battery module will be greatly affected, and even the heat will be out of control, leading to fire and explosion.

Silica aerogel is a kind of porous solid material with gas as dispersion medium, which is a lighter solid material used in engineering at present. Aerogel has low thermal conductivity, good heat insulation effect and is nonflammable. Compared with traditional thermal insulation materials, it only takes 1/5-1/3 of the thickness to achieve the same thermal insulation effect, saving more space for the power battery, and making the thermal insulation effect and temperature more stable.

Application of aerogel in thermal management of lithium batteries

3. When will the cost inflection point come?

The biggest obstacle to the application of new technologies is cost to a large extent.

The material cost of aerogel accounts for half of the total cost, and the manufacturing cost accounts for about 45%. Upstream, TEOS needs to be used in the production of gel, and its capacity is actually the bottleneck restricting the capacity of gel.

Why do you say that? According to rough statistics, the domestic production capacity of tetraethyl orthosilicate is about 45000 tons. If 0.2 tons of tetraethyl orthosilicate is used for a single ton of aerogel material, the total aerogel production capacity is 200000 tons, which is inconsistent with the broad demand given by research institutions. From the price of tetraethyl orthosilicate, we can see that the price is slightly higher every month.

In fact, the threshold of tetraethyl orthosilicate is also one of the reasons for insufficient production capacity, because its raw materials are hazardous chemicals, so transportation and production should be very careful.

Therefore, when the aerogel which is currently in the embryonic stage of the industry enters the growth stage, process improvement and cost reduction will become the key.