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Vacublocks

Space-age insulation
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Ever since the invention of the vacuum thermos everyone knows that vacuum is one of the best insulators there is.

In addition, pretty much everyone knows that insulating your house is a good idea. It saves energy, which means you save money, and it's good for the environment.

Obviously it is not easily feasible to seal all the walls of your house airtight and then suck all the air out of them, so instead, make modular blocks. Each vacublock consists of a metal cube, say 10-15 cm on a side, which has had all the air pumped out of it before being welded shut. In other words, a little box of vacuum. Just order up a thousand or two of these things, and pack your walls (and ceiling and floor) with them as you would traditional insulation. Presto--your house is one big thermos bottle.

The modular construction means it's easy to accomodate any size of wall (any gaps smaller than a single block can be either filled with traditional insulation or with custom-made blocks), and if any one vacublock fails it will not compromise the insulative integrity of the majority of the wall. At first they might seem excessively heavy because they are made of metal, but since all the air has been removed from them the "vacuum balloon" effect will make them suprisingly lightweight, and since they aren't structural they need only be strong enough to keep from collapsing under their own pressure. (the vacublocks could be made even lighter if they were spheres, which are more structurally sound for this application, but they don't pack tightly the way cubes do so it's a trade-off)

The thermal conductivity of the metal itself may be an issue, but this is easily solved by putting a thin layer of normal insulation around each block to prevent direct heat conduction from any contacting surface.

5th Earth, Jan 02 2005

VIP technology http://www.toolbase...173&CategoryID=1400
Vacuum Insulated Panels. [bristolz, Jan 02 2005]

Glass Blocks http://www.spec-net...nstone/negglass.htm
"ENERGY SAVING FEATURES: The inside of each glass block is a near-vacuum..." [jurist, Jan 02 2005]

[link]






       Vacuum insulation technologies, particularly vacuum panels for wall construction, are already in use.
bristolz, Jan 02 2005
  

       Darn.   

       Well, my form-factor is different, so there. :p
5th Earth, Jan 02 2005
  

       Glass building blocks, which contain a near-vacuum (see link), have also been available for many decades and are probably equally versatile to use. While they're twice as efficient as single-pane glass, unfortunately they still only deliver a R-Value of ~1.75 to 2.1.
jurist, Jan 02 2005
  

       [jurist], they're also only 0.3 atm inside, which frankly is a bit high for them to call "near vacuum" IMO. The VIP panels [Bristolz] linked to supposedly can get R30 in only 1" of material.
5th Earth, Jan 03 2005
  

       On the VIP site, "It needs to be enclosed in a protective covering where it will not be damaged during installation or during the occupancy of the home."   

       Sounds impossible. Not occupying a home, that is.
mensmaximus, Jan 03 2005
  

       Okay, I openly admit was defending myself with technicalities on the last couple, but [mensmaximus], are you trying to imply that because the material is fragile it can't possibly be used? (It's a little hard to tell, actually; you're being quite vague.) I can think of no kinder way to state this than to say, that's a terrible argument.   

       Honestly--when is the last time you even SAW the insulation of your home, let alone damaged it in even the most insignificant way? Most insulation is sealed in with 2x4 boards and drywall at the very least, if not sheets of plywood as well. Unless you are in the habit of hanging pictures using railroad spikes, you insulation is as safe as your water pipes and electrical lines (and it's rare event to hear of someone seriously damaging those)   

       Besides, the highly modular nature of my design means that, even in the fairly unlikely event that you manage to puncture one of the *metal* boxes, the insulative integrity of the majority of the all remains wholly intact, since you're only knocking out one 6" cube in the entire wall.
5th Earth, Jan 04 2005
  

       I was commenting on the grammer that an unoccupied home is really a house. Many houses try hard to become homes but fail. Thanks for thinking about a food or shelter issue.   

       Possibly different 'kinds' of people need different 'kinds' of insulation. I saw a magazine article today showing million dollar video rooms in houses. One looked as if a coronation had taken place there recently. One was in Arizona and could use permanent expensive $5/sq. ft. vacuum panels.   

       Homeless people could use something more portable and safe. Maybe a lightweight frame/bicycle that has vacuum walls that assemble into a sleeping box. I see some people already have this kind of project half-way through construction; pushing bicycles around with large plastic bags full of empty pop cans that can be sealed with a vacuum. I see square metal juice containers and resealable food containers that make me think of recycled cans formed into vacuum insulated panels for the homeless.   

       The average home is a barely doing an efficient central heating job in a cold climate. The average new home needs a square foot hole in the wall to let in air for numerous uses. All the metal in your idea should have more than one use. Such as a heat exchanger or something that sells electricity to the grid. Your metal blocks have to be practically intelligent robots, (liquid metal) in the house to earn their expense. A vague question is how much metal will the average person have in their life in the future?
mensmaximus, Jan 04 2005
  

       A vacuum is a good insulator because it is just that.   

       What we have here is a wall full of boxes (not a vacuum) that just happen to contain a vacuum.[-]
paraffin power, Jan 04 2005
  

       This verges on bad science. Let’s say these are six inch cubes. As the vacuum load on each face is about 500 pounds, you’ll need fairly thick steel to keep it from collapsing—.1” should do. That gives 6 pounds of steel. The air you’ve displaced weighs only .01 pounds, so the claim that it’s “surprisingly lightweight” should be that it’s “surprisingly heavy.” The vacuum thermos 5th refers to is generally constructed of glass, with a very thin mirror layer. Glass, because it’s a poor conductor of heat, rather than metals, which are good conductors of heat. So even with a vacuum inside, these cubes will be worse at insulating than a double glazed window, though a bit better than a single glazed.
ldischler, Jan 04 2005
  
      
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