The purpose of thermal insulation is to maximize the use of heat to achieve its insulation goals. Specifically, it uses a barrier element and a reflective element to keep heat where it belongs and prevent it from dispersing.
Combining these two sides of the insulation coin. It stands to reason that metals like stainless steel and aluminum would have optimal insulation properties. Both metals are extremely durable and provide a solid barrier against cold and heat. As well as having superior reflective qualities. This ability to reflect gathers heat where and when it is desired.
Due to all of these reasons, aluminum foil is often use as a thermal insulator and it has an interesting scientific story behind it. It can be traced to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as an insulator. As astronauts lift off into the atmosphere, they are expose to extreme temperatures both high and low. In the 1950s, NASA turned to aluminum foil for its insulation properties in order to protect astronauts from these unpredictable shifts in temperature. Their spacesuits were line with reflective, lightweight aluminum foil to address the problem.
With astronauts facing temperature extremes that range from negative 273 degrees Celsius all the way up to positive 238 degrees Celsius. It is not surprising that applications requiring insulation from hot and cold would turn to the same technology as the space program. Thus was born the use of aluminum foil as a thermal insulator.
How does it achieve its goal of thermal insulation? In order to find the answer, one has to take a trip back to high school physics. This is where one may have encountered the term radiant barrier.
In addition, the site points out that “when the sun heats a roof. It’s primarily the radiant energy of the sun that makes the roof hot. This radiant energy primarily travels through the roofing materials to the attic.”. Hot roof materials radiate heat energy onto the cooler attic surfaces, including the air ducts and the attic floor. “A radiant barrier reduces the radiant heat transfer from the underside of the roof to the other surfaces in the attic.” Due to its thermal insulation capabilities. All areas of the item (in this case a building structure) that are insul remain at the appropriate temperature.”
The first time NASA used aluminum foil as a thermal insulation medium was more than sixty years ago. Aluminum foil is still use as a radiant barrier thermal insulator today, but its applications have expanded greatly. You can find aluminum foil as a radiant barrier almost anywhere these days. All the way down to the bags in which rotisserie chickens and pizzas from the grocery store or restaurant are delivery. Aluminum foil thermal insulation has become a product that the average person just can’t live without.
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