Thermal insulation materials, either separately or combined, are used to provide resistance to heat flow. Most of them are heterogeneous materials, which have low thermal conductivity and contain air pockets. This works well because air has one of the lowest thermal conductivity characteristics and is easily available.
The driving force for heat flow is the temperature difference. The greater the difference, the faster the heat will transfer. The thermal insulation acts as a barrier that slows the flow of heat between two media at different temperatures.
Proper insulation requires a capital investment, but the long-term benefits make it worth the investment. Insulation also benefits the environment and combats air pollution and the greenhouse effect by reducing the amount of fuel burning, which in turn lowers the amount of CO2 and other gases released into the atmosphere.
Thermal Insulation is used for several reasons:
- Energy conservation: Conserving energy by reducing heat is the main reason to insulate surfaces. These insulation materials are widely available and behave satisfactory in the temperature range of -268 C to 1000 C.
- Personal protection and comfort: Hot surfaces pose danger to people working close because they can accidentally get burned. To prevent this risk and meet safety standards, the surface temperatures should be kept below 60 C by isolation. Also, the excessive heat that is released by hot surfaces creates an unpleasant working environment, which negatively affects the performance and productivity of workers, especially in the summer months.
- Maintaining the process temperature: Some chemical processes are sensitive to temperature and must be performed in isolated tanks and flow lines, in order to maintain the same temperature in its entirety.
- Preventing corrosion and condensation: Adequate insulation prevents the water in the air to condense on outer surfaces of tanks or pipes when their temperature falls below dewpoint.
- Reducing noise and vibration: An additional benefit of proper insulation is its ability to mute noise and vibration significantly.