Microtherm® – the hidden success factor

Microtherm

Category: Equipment Design | 14/06/2007 - 09:25:07

Perfect design relies on perfect components and success often comes because of the hidden components that play a small but significant role. In many defence and aerospace applications around the world, the key to performance optimisation is often the use of Microtherm® insulation.

So what makes Microtherm® insulation the perfect component for defence projects? The answer is a combination of exceptional performance, adaptability in shape and formulation, suitability for diverse environmental conditions, and the global technical / engineering support from the Microtherm® organisation.

Typhoon Eurofighter Microtherm® fire protection and instrument shielding in cockpit.
Typhoon Eurofighter Microtherm® fire protection and instrument shielding in cockpit.

The excellent thermal performance of a microporous insulation is well known. The technical article, "Not all microporous insulations are the same" outlines the theory of heat transfer and how to block it. The article, which is available to download from this web site, also provides a technical explanation of why Microtherm® insulation is so exceptionally good, even in comparison with other competing microporous insulation products from other manufacturers. It is this very high performance standard together with a technical background stretching back more than 40 years that combine to maintain the position of Microtherm® as the clear market leader.

When the formulation for Microtherm® was first patented in 1965, it became immediately apparent that there was huge commercial potential for a thermal insulation that could be used at high temperatures at as little as one quarter the thickness of conventional insulation materials, and yet could still perform more efficiently. Nowhere was this more of interest than in the cutting edge technology of aerospace and defence applications where designers constantly struggle to minimize size and weight.

Microtherm pioneered many of the design concepts still in use today.

A 35 year old photograph of a British Aerospace flight recorder, an early example of the use of Microtherm® in compact and easily portable component design
A 35 year old photograph of a British Aerospace flight recorder, an early example of the use of Microtherm® in compact and easily portable component design.

Since the 1960's the Microtherm Group has been in the forefront of "black box" thermal protection systems using a combination of the best insulation available plus a phase change material as a safety heat sink around delicate electronics. They now provide insulation for voyage and accident data recorders for all forms of transport including ships and trains as well as aircraft.

Photograph of an ultra compact ship voyage recorder protected by Microtherm®. Photo courtesy of Danelec A/S
Ultra compact ship voyage recorder protected by Microtherm®. Photo courtesy of Danelec A/S.

Key features of microporous insulation materials

  • Extremely low thermal conductivity to maximum rated temperature.
  • Wide temperature range - cryogenic to + 1200 °C (2192 oF).
  • Fibre free - environmentally safe.
  • Blocks Infra-Red radiation.
  • Organic content lower than 1%.
  • Low density.
  • Very low shrinkage at 1000 oC+ (1832 oF).
  • Ultra thin insulation thickness.
  • Can be accurately shaped, moulded, and machined.

Benefits of microporous insulation materials

  • Optimum solution where space is limited.
  • Allows ultra-slim design.
  • Provides passive fire protection.
  • Easy to install - fully "tailor made" solutions can be supplied.
  • Helps to reduce thermal signature of military vehicles, ships, helicopters, etc..
  • Helps to achieve energy savings.
  • Environmentally friendly and safe to use.
  • Fully engineered solutions are possible.
  • Helps to save weight.
  • Non combustible and creates zero smoke and toxicity.

Microporous insulation - the Microtherm® rangeMicroporous insulation

  • Panel: Glass cloth covered rigid panel that can be supplied in a wide range of sizes, thicknesses, and densities. A hydrophobic version is also available.
  • Block: Bare block material at a selection of densities. A unique hydrophobic version is available that can withstand full immersion in water for long periods of time without losing thermal performance. Block can be CNC machined.
  • Microtherm ®FreeFlowMoulded: Specially developed moulded parts including moulded pipe section (MPS) to fit tightly around pipes of various diameters. Can be either covered with glass cloth or a high temperature resistant coating.
  • Flexible Panel: Flexible, quilted panel that exists in various versions. Densities and covering materials can vary to best suit the final use. Aeroguard® is quilted flexible panel to aerospace standards. Flexible panel also available in slatted form for pipes and cylindrical shapes.
  • Microtherm ®FreeFlow: Pourable microporous granules for rapid filling of intricately shaped closed containers. The granules, with a low consolidation ratio, can be simply poured into a container to provide microporous insulation protection.

The remarkable versatility of the product range has meant that Microtherm® thermal solutions have universal application. The availability of rigid, flexible, and granular forms have enabled designers to take advantage of microporous protection wherever compact, lightweight thermal insulation is required.

The table below gives a selection of applications but these represent only a small part of the usage of Microtherm® in aerospace and defence around the world.

Microtherm® Table
ApplicationsBranch of armed forcesBranch of armed forcesQuilted /
Aeroguard
Engine nacelle insulationAir force Suitable
Thrust reversersAir force Suitable
Exhaust insulationAir force / Navy Suitable
Passive Fire ProtectionAny Suitable
Thermal batteriesAnySuitable 
Data recordersAir force / NavySuitable 
OrdnanceAny Suitable
Missile protectionAny Suitable
Thermal generatorsArmySuitable 
IR signature reductionAny Suitable
Portable Fuel CellsAnySuitableSuitable
Auxiliary Power Units (APU)AnySuitableSuitable
Avionics HousingAir force / Navy Suitable
Ammunition ProtectionAny Suitable

 

Microtherm® Table
ApplicationsFreeFlowPanelsMouldedMPSSlatted
Engine nacelle insulation     
Thrust reversers     
Exhaust insulationSuitable  SuitableSuitable
Passive Fire Protection Suitable   
Thermal batteries     
Data recorders  Suitable  
OrdnanceSuitable    
Missile protection     
Thermal generatorsSuitable    
IR signature reduction     
Portable Fuel CellsSuitable Suitable  
Auxiliary Power Units (APU) SuitableSuitableSuitable 
Avionics Housing     
Ammunition Protection Suitable   


Microtherm® insulation system on the main engine exhausts of an offshore patrol boat
Microtherm® insulation system on the main engine exhausts of an offshore patrol boat.

Microtherm® products and service are available world wide.

The main manufacturing site is at Sint-Niklaas in Belgium. This is the group headquarters and the location for all the group services including technical support through R&D, applications engineering, technical services etc.

The Microtherm Group also has sites in America and Japan and the Group is further supported by a network of Global Partners. Full contact details for the entire sales and service support network, and details of products and applications can be found on the corporate web site at www.microthermgroup.com.