Aerogel Technologies LLC plans to build a pilot plant for production of polymer aerogel panels and films in Boston.
In a recent news release, officials with Boston-based Aerogel Technologies said that the first stage of the plant is expected to come online by May.
“We are thrilled to bring large-dimension polymer aerogels to scale for the first time and in doing so bring measurable energy and cost-savings benefits to applications around the world,” President and CEO Stephen Steiner said in the release.
He added that because of the new pilot plant, applications for aerogels ranging from more fuel-efficient airplanes to longer-range electric vehicles “are finally within reach.”
Aerogels are lightweight materials made up of 99 percent air by volume that can be made from a variety of resins. With the new plant, Aerogel Technologies officials said that the firm will begin scale production of large-dimension aerogel panels in sizes initially ranging from 1-foot-by-1-foot to 4-feet-by-4-feet for use in aviation interiors, auto parts, and lightweighting of engineering components currently made from other plastics.
Company officials added that “several major product developments” are underway with Airbus, Ford Motor Co. and similar firms. The plant, a 100,000-square-foot building previously operated by Westinghouse in Boston's Hyde park neighborhood, is the first stage of a larger planned facility that officials said will be able to make more than 2 million square feet of aerogel panels per year.
NASA has used aerogels for space missions for several decades, according to Aerogel Technologies, but commercial forms have only been available for about 15 years and have been limited to fibrous blankets used in thermal insulating and energy-efficient construction projects.
Aerogel Technologies' aerogels are sold under the Airloy brand name. Officials said the materials are 3-15 times lighter than plastics or composites but exhibit the durability of engineering materials. Airloy aerogels also offer 2-3 times better thermal insulating performance than expanded polystyrene foam or fiberglass, officials said.
Steiner added that Aerogel Technologies is committed to American manufacturing and to next-generation blue-collar job creation in the United States.
“In our opinion, there's no better place in the world to manufacture advanced materials than the United States,” he said. “The talent, the creativity, the technology, the financial resources, the market opportunities — there's no better place.”