Refractories, thermo-acoustic insulation and thermal barriers

Principal investigators: Valentina Medri, Elena Landi, Annalisa Natali Murri
Involved personnel: Elettra Papa, Cesare Melandri

The activity of CNR-ISTEC is dedicated to the development of particle geopolymeric composites or with fibers, and cores in sandwich panels for thermo-structural applications such as:

  • self-supporting cavities;
  • thermal and acoustic insulators;
  • thermal barriers and fire cutters;
  • high temperature and damping coatings,
  • foams and refractory linings;
  • molds and cores for the foundry.

Geopolymers are synthetic inorganic polymers based on aluminosilicate or phosphate based chemically bound at T <300 ° C. They have a high tolerance to high temperatures because they are incombustible, do not develop gases or fumes, are not toxic and do not “explode”, since in contrast to traditional hydraulic cements they do not contain water in the structure. It is important to emphasize that thermo-structural geopolymeric materials are always composite: the geopolymer resin acts as a glue for the charges that functionalize or reinforce the material. In particular, for geopolymer-based composite materials, three types of products can be indicated:

  • a composite geopolymer matrix with a particulate filler, such as sand, carbon, metal oxides or carbides to increase refractory, lightweight aggregates to increase lightness, synthetic or natural fibers, even wastes, etc.;
  • a porous composite geopolymer matrix, in which pores are generated by foaming techniques to increase lightness and insulating power;
  • a composite material that involves the impregnation of long fibers and tissues or the drowning of an internal reinforcement into a geopolymeric mix, with techniques similar to those used for organic resins and their related composite materials.

Tools and Processes

The geopolymerization process is a reaction between an aluminosilicate powder and an aqueous solution of alkaline hydroxides or silicates which, based on the cation (commonly Na +, K +, but also Li +, Cs +), affects the final mechanical and thermal properties. The phosphate-based geopolymer materials are the products of the acid-base reaction of two- and three-dimensional metal oxides with acid phosphates in aqueous solution. The synthesis temperatures are below 100 ° C for the “alkaline” and lower than 300 ° C for the phosphate. Mechanical mixing is required to complete the reaction. CNR-ISTEC is equipped with shear mixer (Planetary Centrifugal Mixer “THINKY MIXER” ARE-500).

Hand layup and vacuum bagging or vacuum infiltration processes are used for fiber-reinforced composites. These technologies allows the production of ceramic-based materials in the same way as some plastic materials, removing heavy equipment and high temperatures from industrial ceramic plants. The geopolymer items, in fact, can be produced by molding and without the aid of further finishes. CNR-ISTEC has formulated inorganic resins that can be adapted to technologies, such as the vacuum bagging and autoclave, commonly used for polymer-based fiber-reinforced products (FRP), with consequent simplification of the production process and relative cost reduction. The activity of CNR-ISTEC was carried out as part of an industrial research contract through which Aeronautical Service srl activated a new production line and drew up validation protocols to market the products. The current TRL is 8.

Main collaborations


Publications and patents

Thermo-acoustic and refractory insulating panels based on inorganic biosoluble fibers for naval applications (Ritmare project)Prototype of fiber-reinforced geopolymer matrix in complex form (© Aeronautical Service Srl)