LIFE-VICORPAN mid-term event
With some experts in the sector, tomorrow we delve into the latest developments regarding the exceptional thermal insulation value achievable with Vacuum Insulated Panels (VIPs).
Functioning similarly to a thermos, in fact, a mere 2 cm VIP can replace 15 cm of traditional building insulation, offering many possible uses. And they are potentially recyclable at the end of their lifecycle!
In the ever-evolving landscape of energy efficiency, the European Union has implemented stringent rules for domestic and commercial refrigerators. These regulations not only emphasize energy efficiency but also mandate progressive class advancements, pushing for state-of-the-art solutions.
Vacuum Insulated Panels can achieve the required energy savings but, being predominantly based on fiberglass, present significant challenges in terms of weight, cost, handling, and recyclability.
Enter VIPs with polyurethane open-cell cores, offering a game-changing solution to these issues. Not only do they overcome the hurdles of cost and weight, but they also address recyclability and handling concerns. Despite requiring a slightly increased thickness, polyurethane-based VIPs match the thermal insulation of their fiberglass counterparts. Their flexibility allows for easy bending and customization into various shapes, and they can be recycled. Unlike fiberglass-based VIPs, which complicate the recycling process due to fine glass fibers causing environmental contamination, polyurethane-based VIPs align seamlessly with current recycling methods for refrigerators.
LIFE-VICORPAN at Ecomondo, Rimini, November 7-10
Join us at Ecomondo, Rimini, The Green Technology Expo, from Nov. 7-10! Our Maurizio Corti, Head of Cannon Corporate R&D, will introduce the project LIFE-VICORPAN and some of the results we have achieved with our partners Epta and BASF.
Currently in its mid-stream, LIFE-VICORPAN proposes an innovative technology for emission reduction and recycling with the reuse of the hundreds of thousands of refrigerators that are produced and reach the end of their lives each year, achieving insulation properties twice as good as foam expanded with freon or hydrocarbons.
Key objects of the project:
- Significantly reduce CO2 emissions by increasing the efficiency of commercial refrigerators, which are responsible for one-third of European cold chain-related emissions. For example, supermarkets’ freezers must preserve food between -18 °C and -25 °C to ensure its characteristics and shelf life.
- Fabricate and install special VIP (Vacuum Insulated Panels) panels in commercial refrigerators based on plant fibers and/or open cell foams that can improve insulation from λ = 20 mW/(m°K) to 12 mW/(m°K), and that can be shaped as the outline of the refrigerator itself.
- Demonstrate the convenience of replacing VIPs from China containing very fine fiberglass—which is dangerous to the environment and people—with new, much lighter panels, less hazardous in case of breakage during installation and when the fiberglass is released in the demolition phase.
Come and listen Maurizio Corti’s speech “Improved Vacuum Insulation Panels for reduced-emission commercial and domestic refrigerators” on November 9, 2023 at 4.00 pm, Sala Tiglio pad. A6
Continuous innovation for ever-greater sustainability
The Vicorpan Project, to improve commercial refrigerators’ energy efficiency and recyclability, is continuously evolving and bringing important results from a sustainability perspective.
Starting in 2020, together with BASF Polyurethanes and EPTA, Cannon initiated the Vicorpan Project (LIFE20 CCM/IT/1644VICORPAN) with the aim to develop and apply specific recyclable vacuum insulation panels with a high level of thermal insulation efficiency.
Compared with polyurethane foam insulation, standard VIP panels, based on very thin glass fibers, have lower thermal conductivity but are more problematic to handle in production and recycling, risking polluting the workplace with filler material.
They are heavy, and, in addition, the aluminum squared edges of these panels can compromise a considerable part of the insulation capacity provided by the vacuum, especially due to the borders’ conductivity.
The Vicorpan solution replaces the core of the VIP panels with open-cell polyurethane foam. This allows for lower specific weight, total better panel moldability, and facilitates handling and insertion of the panels into the refrigerator shell; moreover, the possibility to shape the panels reduces the edge impact.
This improves refrigerators’ energy efficiency, helping manufacturers meet increasingly stringent energy efficiency standards.
For further info about our partners and the Vicorpan Project, see here.
The Vicorpan Project at a glance
- 3 leading companies involved
- 17% reduction in heat transfer from refrigerators
- Lambda of the vacuum insulated panels is between 6 and 7
- Polyurethane panels can weigh up to 1/5 of a standard fiberglass VIP
- Possibility to shape the panels and close them under a vacuum
The importance of having the right equipment
Over the past year, we have made several investments to work more effectively on this project. For example, we have furnished our lab with equipment to produce 100% open-cell foam blocks on a prototype scale which are then cut as necessary and coated with aluminized plastic to form the samples. A vacuum chamber with perfect sealing and hot blades enables easy and perfect panel sealing. At the same time, a specific lambda-meter, able to measure every shape, validates their quality and insulation properties.
Our prototype equipment will also allow us to make large panels, bigger than the standard, enabling us to produce VIP panels up to about 1×1.5 mt for use in special commercial refrigerators.
Different materials, different panels, more sustainability
Dedicated machinery is critical to pushing materials research in an increasingly sustainable direction.
Using this equipment, we have developed cores of VIP panels with aggregate material either of biological origin, thus using sugarcane or wool processing residues, or of chemical origin, giving new life to polyurethane, which is ground and recycled.
In both cases, the material is fed into a mixer with adhesive, then put into a press to create the tiles.
But the panels’ shape can also make a difference, especially regarding energy efficiency.
Our team is currently developing U- or L-shaped folded panels, which are now in the prototype stage. In our work, we have managed to overcome the typical issues of this production process related to the high performance required of the machinery and the vacuum seal below one-hundredth of a millibar at the panel sealing stage.
Come and visit us at the K-Show, Duesseldorf DE, 19-26 October 2022
After months of quiet development, we are ready to unveil the Vicorpan project’s first results.
We will present it in Duesseldorf, during the K-Show. More to come!
Vicorpan’s kick-off took place on September 22nd, 2021.
We will soon share news about the latest achievements and update you on future events to learn more about this project.