Evaluation of the Thermal Performance for a Wire Mesh/Hollow Glass Microsphere Composite Structure as a Conduction Barrier
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An experimental investigation exploring the use of wire mesh/hollow glass microsphere combination for use as thermal insulation was conducted with the aim to conclude whether or not it represents a superior insulation technology to those on the market. Three primary variables, including number of wire mesh layers, filler material, and temperature dependence were studied using an apparatus that was part of L.I.C.H.E.N (LabVIEW Integrated Conduction Heat Experiment Network), a setup whose basic components allow three vertically stacked samples to be thermally and mechanically controlled. Knowing the temperature profile in the upper and lower samples allows for determination of thermal conductivity of the middle material through the use of Fourier?s law. The numbers of layers investigated were two, four, six, and eight, with each separated by a metallic liner. The filler materials included air, s15, s35 and s60HS 3MTM hollow glass microspheres. The experiments were conducted at four temperatures of 300, 330, 366, and 400K with an interface pressure of 20 Psi. The experimental results indicated the ?number of layers? used was the primary factor in determining the effective thermal conductivity value. The addition of hollow glass microspheres as filler material resulted in statistically insignificant changes in effective thermal conductivity. Increasing the number of wire mesh layers resulted in a corresponding increase in effective thermal conductivity of the insulation. Changes in temperature had little to no effect on thermal conductivity. The effective thermal conductivity values for the proposed insulation structure ranged from 0.22 to 0.65 W/m-K, the lowest of which came from the two layer case having air as filler material. The uncertainties associated with the experimental results fell between 10 to 20 percent in all but a few cases. In the best performing cases, when compared with existing insulation technologies, thermal conductivity was approximately 3 to 10 times higher than these methods of insulation. Thus, the proposed insulation scheme with hollow glass-sphere filler material does not represent superior technology, and would be deemed uncompetitive with those readily available in the insulation market.