Date of Award

12-2018

Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering

Department

Mechanical Engineering

Advisor

Eltahry Elghandour

Abstract

Current insulation solutions across multiple industries, especially the commercial sector, can be bulky and ineffective when considering their volume. Aerogels are excellent insulators, exhibiting low thermal conductivities and low densities with a porosity of around 95%. Such characteristics make aerogels effective in decreasing conductive heat transfer within a solid. These requirements are crucial for aerospace and spaceflight applications, where sensitive components exist among extreme temperature environments. When implemented into insulation applications, aerogel can perform better than existing technology while using less material, which limits the amount of volume allocated for insulation. The application of these materials into composites can result in enhancing a material's thermal and mechanical properties when exposed to mechanical testing.

The main objective of this study was to perform theoretical and experimental analysis on a corrugated composite sandwich structure integrated with aerogel insulation by studying its effective thermal conductivity. The aerogel material used was Pyrogel XT-E, a silica aerogel-based fiberglass insulation manufactured by Aspen Aerogels. Theoretical models of the corrugated composite sandwich structure were constructed in ANSYS Workbench based on geometry from a previous study. The main goal of the theoretical models was to analytically and computationally study the effective thermal conductivity of this sample; the conditions of these simulations were modeled after the experimental setup. Additionally, two insulation studies were performed using the thermal models. The first study was performed on a flat plate structure to determine the optimal thickness of Pyrogel XT-E in a flat plate orientation. The second study compared multiple types of common insulation materials to Pyrogel XT-E when integrated into the corrugated composite sandwich structure model. As expected, aerogel particles and Pyrogel XT-E outperformed all insulation materials and had the lowest effective thermal conductivity. Experimental data was obtained using a test enclosure and a heating element source with an integrated temperature control circuit that was designed and built for this study. This experimental data was compared to the theoretical data obtained from the thermal model simulations. The corrugated composite sandwich structure did not perform as well as expected due to thermal bridging along the composite corrugation. Its effective thermal conductivity was much higher than that of the flat plate structure, even though the effective Pyrogel XT-E layer in the corrugated composite sandwich structure was more than twice as thick as the layer in the flat plate structure. Despite thermal bridging, the corrugated composite sandwich structure exhibits superb thermal resistance, which adds to its impressive strength. Thermal conductivity results from this study can be used to design efficient materials for high structural and thermal stress applications.

Award received:

2018 SAMPE University Research Symposium Finalist, M.S. Category

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