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News

Cabot Nanogel Translucent Aerogel-Filled Light Panels Used to Create Unique Energy Efficient Domes

Cabot Corporation : 26 July, 2004  (Application Story)
Hirschberg Designed Domes Offer Many Potential Uses As Temporary Room Extensions or Stand Alone Units
For maximum light diffusion and thermal insulation, the Symball dome is constructed of a steel frame that incorporates hollow polycarbonate panels filled with Nanogel translucent aerogel material. Produced by Cabot Corporation, Nanogel, translucent aerogel materials are known as the best insulating and lightest solid materials in the world. Manufactured exclusively by Cabot through its patented process, Nanogel translucent aerogel is a lightweight, high light transmitting, nanoporous material that is permanently hydrophobic, making it both moisture and mildew resistant. Combined, these properties make it ideally suited for thermal and sound insulation. According to the NASA, aerogels materials like Nanogel, deliver the best insulating performance of all solid materials.

Geometrically resembling an icosahedron, the Symball is constructed of a steel frame that forms a spherical network of equilateral triangles. Nanogel® filled panels, along with other opaque membrane panel segments filled with vacuum or air cushion insulation, span over the network to form a spacious dome. Once the dome frame is constructed and panels installed, the infrastructure can be used as either temporary room extensions that use surplus energy of existing buildings, or as self-sufficient stand-alone units. Future developments also include free-standing or biomorph shapes as well as designs using photovoltaic technology.

“Our heads are made round, so that our thinking can change direction” – the German architect Jens Hirschberg quotes the French author, painter and illustrator Francis Picabia to underline the concept of Symball, a membrane-covered, self-supporting steel-framed dome, measuring five to 20m diameter.

“Depending on the wall thickness and structure of the hollow panels, the Nanogel® segments yield an excellent U-value ranging from 0.28 to 0.89 W/m2K for different materials and element dimensions, while providing a pleasantly soft and glare-free daylight inside the dome,” explains Dipl.-Ing. Jens Hirschberg. “The light transmission ranges from 40 to 60%.”

The construction principle enables a relatively high level of prefabrication for shorter installation times. Supporting multiple assembly and disassembly, the Symball domes are available from 500 EUR/m2. According to Hirschberg, ideal applications include emergency shelters, sport and event centres, mobile exhibitions as well as room extensions for offices and kindergartens, and ‘living space’ at special locations.

Currently, the Symball dome is undergoing extensive testing in a pilot project with various innovative new construction materials. “Following the highly positive response to the first commercial installations of Nanogel filled light panels and daylight elements in Europe, Hirschberg’s Symball dome also underlines aerogel’s versatility for transparent insulation in exceptional architectures,” says Donald Beck, who represents Cabot on the project. For further information visit the Symball website (www.symball.de).

The Hirschberg team, headquartered near Schwäbisch-Hall in southern Germany, has specialised on passive and low energy houses and is a founding member of ARCHITOS, an international association of experts in ecology, home comfort and efficiency in building and construction.
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