where N/Ax is the number of complete layers (reflecting shield plus spacer) of the insulation-per-unit thickness, hs is the solid conductance of the spacer material, C is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant, e is the effective emissivity of the reflecting shield, and T2 and T1 are the temperatures of the warm and cold sides of the insulation, respectively. It is evident that the apparent thermal conductivity can be reduced by increasing the layer density up to a certain point. It is not obvious from the above relation that a compressive load affects the apparent thermal conductivity and thus the performance of a multilayer insulation. However, under a compressive load the solid conductance increases much more rapidly than N/Ax resulting in an overall increase in ka. Plots of heat flux versus compressive load on a logarithmic scale result in straight lines with slopes between 0.5 and 0.67.

The effective thermal conductivity values generally obtained in practice are at least a factor of two greater than the one-dimensional thermal conductivity values measured in the laboratory with carefully controlled techniques. This degradation in insulation thermal performance is caused by the combined presence of edge exposure to isothermal boundaries, gaps, joints, or penetrations in the insulation blanket required for structural supports, fill and vent lines, and high lateral thermal conductivity of these insulation systems.

Powder Insulation A method of realizing some of the benefits of multiple floating shields without incurring the difficulties of awkward structural complexities is to use evacuated powder insulation. The penalty incurred in the use of this type of insulation, however, is a tenfold reduction in the overall thermal effectiveness of the insulation system over that obtained for multilayer insulation. In applications where this is not a serious factor, such as LNG storage facilities, and investment cost is of major concern, even unevacuated powder-insulation systems have found useful applications. The variation in apparent mean thermal conductivity of several powders as a function of interstitial gas pressure is shown in the familiar S-shaped curves of Fig. 11-121.

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