Swiss scientists from Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratory for Science and Technology) and the Slovak University of Technology have unveiled a groundbreaking construction material that could transform the industry with its exceptional insulation capabilities. The team has ingeniously harnessed the power of silica aerogel granules to create aerogel glass bricks, introducing a translucent and thermally insulating material that could significantly reduce lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) energy demands without the need to increase insulation layer thickness.

Described as having the “highest insulating performance” among bricks in technical literature and the market, the aerogel glass brick offers not only insulation benefits but also improves visual comfort. The material is expected to enhance solar gains, leading to reduced heating costs, and decrease reliance on artificial lighting.

Empa researcher Jannis Wernery and colleagues emphasized the unique advantages of the aerogel glass brick, stating, “The aerogel glass brick is suitable for applications in which there are simultaneous requirements for high daylight penetration, glare protection, and privacy protection, such as in offices, libraries, and museums.”

Aerogel, renowned for its lightweight and insulating properties, has found diverse applications, from building insulation to NASA’s space technology. The research team at Empa embarked on the project in 2017, envisioning the direct integration of aerogel into building construction. This innovative approach aligns with the growing trend of exploring alternatives to traditional construction materials like concrete.

Other notable examples in this realm include Ferrock, recognized for its durability and eco-friendly composition, serving as a superior alternative to concrete. The introduction of Sugarcrete, a material derived from sugarcane bagasse, offers an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution applicable as a brick, insulating panel, or load-bearing element.

Moreover, researchers have explored unconventional sources like sargassum, an invasive seaweed, to create hurricane-proof bricks. Another promising innovation involves mycelium bricks crafted from microscopic fungi fibers found in agricultural waste, showcasing the potential of sustainable building materials for the future. As these groundbreaking alternatives continue to emerge, the construction industry is on the brink of a transformative shift towards more eco-friendly and efficient solutions.

By Impact Lab