1522 Material Description

Calcium Silicate

These products are formed from a mixture of lime and silica and various reinforcing fibers. In general, they contain no organic binders, so they maintain their physical integrity at high temperatures. The calcium silicate products are known for exceptional strength and durability in both intermediate- and high-temperature applications where physical abuse is a problem. In addition, their thermal performance is superior to other products at the higher operating temperatures.

Glass Fiber

Fiberglass insulations are supplied in more forms, sizes, and temperature limits than are other industrial insulations. All of the products are silica-based and range in density from 0.6 to 12 lb/ ft3. The binder systems employed include low-temperature organic binders, high-temperature organic/antipunk binders, and needled mats with no binders at all. The resulting products in clude flexible blankets, semirigid boards, and preformed one-piece pipe covering for a very wide range of applications from cryogenic to high temperature. In general, the fiberglass products are not considered load bearing.

Most of the organic binders used begin to oxidize (burn out) in the range 400 to 500°F. The loss of binder somewhat reduces the strength of the product in that area, but the fiber matrix composed of long glass fibers still gives the product good integrity. As a result, many fiberglass products are rated for service above the binder temperature, and successful experience indicates that they are completely suitable for numerous applications.

Mineral Fiber/Rock Wool

These products are distinguished from glass fiber in that the fibers are formed from molten rock or slag rather than silica. Most of the products employ organic binders similar to fiberglass but the very high temperature, high-density blocks use inorganic clay-type binders. The mineral wool fibers are more refractory (heat resistant) than glass fibers, so the products can be used to higher temperatures. However, the mineral wool fiber lengths are much shorter than glass and the products do contain a high percentage of unfiberized material. As a result, after binder burnout, the products do not retain their physical integrity very well and long-term vibration or physical abuse will take its toll.

Cellular Glass

This product is composed of millions of completely sealed glass cells, resulting in a rigid insulation that is totally inorganic. Since the product is closed cell, it will not absorb liquids or vapors and thus adds security to cryogenic or buried applications, where moisture is always a problem. Cellular glass is load bearing, but also somewhat brittle, making installation more difficult and causing problems in vibrating or flexing applications. At high temperatures, thermal-shock cracking can be a problem, so a cemented multilayer construction is used. The thermal conductivity of cellular glass is higher than for most other products, but it has unique features that make it the best product for certain applications.

Expanded Perlite

These products are made from a naturally occurring mineral, perlite, that has been expanded at a high temperature to form a structure of tiny air cells surrounded by vitrified product. Organic and inorganic binders together with reinforcing fibers are used to hold the structure together. As produced, the perlite materials have low moisture absorption, but after heating and oxidizing the organic material, the absorption increases dramatically. The products are rigid and load bearing but have lower compressive strengths and higher thermal conductivities than the calcium silicate products and are also much more brittle.

Plastic Foams

There are three foam types finding some use in industrial applications, primarily for cold service. They are all produced by foaming various plastic resins.

Polyurethane/lsocyanurate Foams. These two types are rigid and offer the lowest thermal conductivity since they are expanded with fluorocarbon blowing agents. However, sealing is still required to resist the migration of air and water vapor back into the foam cells, particularly under severe conditions with large differentials in vapor pressure. The history of urethanes is plagued with problems of dimensional stability and fire safety. The isocyanurates were developed to improve both conditions, but they still have not achieved the 25/50 FHC (fire hazard classification) for a full range of thickness. As a result, many industrial users will not allow their use except in protected or isolated areas or when covered with another fire-resistant insulation. The advantage of these foam products is their low thermal conductivity, which allows less insulation thickness to be used, of particular importance in very cold service.

Phenolic Foam. These products have achieved the required level of fire safety, but do not offer k values much different from fiberglass. They are rigid enough to eliminate the need for special pipe saddle supports on small lines. However, the present temperature limits are so restrictive that the products are primarily limited to plumbing and refrigeration applications.

Polyimide Foams

Polyimide foams are used as thermal and acoustical insulation. This material is fire resistant (FS/SD) of 10/10) and lightweight, so it requires fewer mechanical fastening devices. Thermal insulation is available in open-cell structure. Temperature stability limits its application to chilled water lines and systems up to 100°F.

Elastomeric Cellular Plastic

These products combine foamed resins with elastomers to produce a flexible, closed-cell material. Plumbing and refrigeration piping and vessels are the most common applications, and additional vapor-barrier protection is not required for most cold service condi tions. Smoke generation has been the biggest problem with the elastomeric products and has restricted their use in 25/50 FHC areas. To reduce installation costs, elastomeric pipe insulation is available in 6-ft long, pre-split tubular sections with a factory-applied adhesive along the longitudinal joint.


Insulating refractories consist primarily of two types, fiber and brick.

Ceramic Fiber. These alumina-silica products are available in two basic forms, needled and organically bonded. The needled blankets contain no binders and retain their strength and flexibility to very high temperatures. The organically bonded felts utilize various resins which provide good cold strength and allow the felts to be press cured up to 18 lb/cu.ft. density. However, after the binder burns out, the strength of the felt is substantially reduced. The bulk ceramic fibers are also used in vacuum forming operations where specialty parts are molded to specific shapes.

Insulating Firebrick. These products are manufactured from high-purity refractory clays with alumina also being added to the higher temperature grades. A finely graded organic filler which burns out during manufacture provides the end product with a well-designed pore structure, adding to the product's insulating efficiency. Insulating firebricks are lighter and therefore store less heat than the dense refractories and are superior in terms of thermal efficiency.

Protective Coatings and Jackets

Any insulation system must employ the proper covering to protect the insulation and ensure long-term performance. Weather barriers, vapor barriers, rigid and soft jackets, and a multitude of coatings exist for all types of applications. It is best to consult literature and representatives of the various coating manufacturers to establish the proper material for a specific application. Jackets with reflective surfaces (like aluminum and stainless steel jackets) have low emissivity (e). For this reason, reflective jackets have lower heat loss than plain or fabric jackets (high emissivity). In hot applications, this will result in higher surface temperatures and increase the risk of burning personnel. In cold applications, surface temperatures will be lower, which could cause moisture condensation. Regarding jacketing material, existing environment and abuse conditions and desired esthetics usually dictate the proper material. Section 15.3.3 will discuss jacketing systems typically used in industrial work.

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