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Translucent roofing system uses aerogel to allow full spectrum, natural light into living spaces with comfort and energy efficiency

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December 7, 2005

Translucent roofing system uses aerogel to allow full spectrum, natural light into living ...

Translucent roofing system uses aerogel to allow full spectrum, natural light into living spaces with comfort and energy efficiency

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December 8, 2005 Nanotechnology threatens some radical changes to the way we live – indeed, it threatens to change some of our fundamental belief systems. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of physics will tell you that putting a clear roof on our dwellings allowing full spectrum, natural light, will result in a disastrously inefficient energy monster. But nanotechnology can offer glass and polycarbonate remarkable new properties as this story illustrates. We’ve written about the world’s lightest substance before (here and here), but now some of aerogel’s other properties are beginning to find commercial application and by filling polycarbonate or glass with nanogel, the clear substances retain their light transmission qualities while delivering outstanding thermal insulation.

The first to market with the new nanogel-filled polycarbonate is Centerpoint, which sells a roofing structure designed to allow penetration of natural, filtered daylight into living areas without the energy loss and higher heating and cooling costs of glass roofing inserts. The company chose GE's Lexan Thermoclear multiwall sheet for the new pre-assembled roofing system based on its outstanding performance properties: excellent light transmission; the ability to withstand wind loads of up to 140 mph; superior UV resistance and impact strength; light weight and design flexibility vs. glass; and exceptional sound and energy insulation. The secret to the system though is the use of Cabot's Nanogel translucent aerogel, a lightweight, nanoporous insulation material. The Lexan Thermoclear multiwall sheet is filled with Nanogel, enabling the system’s to deliver outstanding thermal insulation and light transmission

The translucent roofing system is also an excellent candidate for roof domes, skylights, walkways, conservatories, and other building applications where it is desirable to admit high levels of light while keeping excess heat to a minimum.

Centerpoint's patent-pending roofing structure is designed to allow penetration of natural, filtered daylight into living areas without the energy loss and higher heating and cooling costs of glass roofing inserts. The company selected GE's Lexan Thermoclear multiwall sheet for the new pre-assembled roofing system based on its outstanding performance properties: excellent light transmission; the ability to withstand wind loads of up to 140 mph; superior UV resistance and impact strength; light weight and design flexibility vs. glass; and exceptional sound and energy insulation.

"Centerpoint's translucent roofing system gives residential developers a high-end product to differentiate their homes and communities in the increasingly competitive new-construction segment," said Centerpoint’s President, Kendall Sayers. "GE provided tremendous support in helping us identify a material candidate for our roofing system. Its Lexan Thermoclear sheet not only delivers outstanding performance but also enhances the beauty of the home environment."

Consumers purchasing new homes are increasingly requesting floor plans that include more natural light, both to improve aesthetics and to reduce energy needed for interior lighting. However, intensive use of glass glazing can cause harsh lighting effects and lead to interior heat buildup from penetration of near-infrared radiation, especially in hot and/or sunny locales. Centerpoint's new roofing system addresses these concerns by using the GE and Cabot materials to filter and diffuse natural daylight entering home living areas, eliminating shadows and glare, and raising energy efficiency by a factor of five compared to glass panels. The system also provides sound-dampening qualities for a quieter environment.

GE will supply a gray metallic/white tinted version of Lexan Thermoclear multiwall sheet in a custom-designed 25mm that will come with a 10-year limited written warranty. This configuration will be filled with Cabot's Nanogel translucent aerogel, a lightweight, nanoporous insulation material that delivers outstanding thermal insulation and light transmission.

Cabot created Nanogel, in part to insulate thermally inefficient glazing systems. The feather-light aerogel is based on Cabot's patented surface modification and fine-particle manufacturing technology. The nanoporous particles have an air content of 97% and weigh only 90 grams/liter, making Nanogel the lightest solid material in the world. It provides a superior combination of thermal and sound insulation as well as light transmission and diffusion over other insulation materials. These benefits offer new design solutions for architects where both maximum natural daylight levels and energy efficiency are required. Nanogel is manufactured exclusively by Cabot in Frankfurt, Germany.

Currently, three configurations of the Centerpoint roofing system are on display in homes built by Centex Corporation in South Carolina, with plans underway to install them in homes throughout the southeast region. The translucent roofing system is also an excellent candidate for roof domes, skylights, walkways, conservatories, and other building applications where it is desirable to admit high levels of light while keeping excess heat to a minimum.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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