Acoustic insulation application is the fastest growing application segment in the global aerogel market. The high porosity of aerogel reduces the sound velocity inside it, resulting in high sound absorption capacity. This is an important characteristic of aerogel that promotes its use as an acoustic solution. Efficient thermal resistance, reusability and recyclability of aerogel, lighter and thinner alternatives to conventional insulations, high durability and protection from fire are the key factors driving the adoption of the aerogel market.
Aerogel is a porous, synthetic and extremely light material derived from a gel, in which the liquid element of the gel has been replaced with a gas. Aerogels have low thermal conductivity and extremely low density. Aerogels can be made from a variety of chemical compounds. In aerogel production, the liquid part of a gel is extracted by supercritical drying.
Production of aerogel involves conventional evaporation in which the liquid is dried off slowly without affecting the concrete matrix in the gel to disintegrate from capillary action. Initially, aerogels were produced from silica gels. Aerogel is a material that is 98.2% air, and due to the lack of solid material aerogel is almost weightless. Aerogel has a porous solid network that contains air pockets, with the air pockets, taking up majority of space within the material. Aerogels are good thermal insulators because they nullify two of the three methods of heat transfer (radiation, convection and conduction). They are good conductive insulators, as they are composed entirely from gas, and gases are poor conductors of heat.
For the better understanding, the global aerogel market can be categorised on the basis of raw material, applications and aerogel type. Based on the raw materials, aerogel market is divided into silica, carbon, alumina and others. On the basis of applications, the aerogel market is divided into building insulation, oil and gas industry, aerospace, automotive thermal management, chemicals, electronics, acoustic insulation, healthcare. Based on forms, the global aerogel market is divided into powder, blankets, blocks and panels. In 2013, blanket constituted the largest segment in the aerogel market by form and is expected to experience substantial growth in coming years.
The global aerogel market has many opportunities in future. Aerogel can be inserted in firefighter's protective gears, due to its thermal protective performance. Due to its high heat resistance along with extreme lightweightedness; it can be used as apparels in the cold regions. Besides, by having a high surface area, carbon aerogel can also be used for electrical energy storage and hydrogen. In addition, the extremely thin and easily produced polyurethane aerogel insulating panel is a further new invention in the aerogel market. This factor is influencing the growth of the aerogel panels segment.
High production cost is the most important restraining factor for the global aerogel market, as the rising cost burden affects the consumers directly. High cost of production and dependence on general economic conditions are some other factors obstructing the global aerogel market. Moreover, industries such as construction, power generation and petroleum are vulnerable to cross-boundary economic conditions and hence, the aerogel market which are dependent, face sales side pressure in adverse economic conditions.
Some of the major competitors operating in the global aerogel market are Aspen Aerogels, Inc., Cabot Corporation, and The Dow Chemical Company. However, there are various small scale companies spread across the other parts of the globe trying to increase aerogel production.