Options in insulation on board do not provide an abundance in choices. Glass wool insulates both temperature and dampens noise, but lacks anti-corrosion properties, and takes up precious room. In some cases, it even functions as a sponge for water, mold and insects. Polystyrene is very light and easy to apply. It’s insulating properties are fair, but again it has no anti-corrosion properties, and just like glass wool insulation, it needs to be held in place by cladding or board. There are special sound-proof and thermal insulating foams available, although expensive and still not anti-corrosive, nor do they combat the challenges of cold and heat in one solution.
The developments in micro- and nanotechnology during the nineties and the zero years however, didn’t bypass the insulation market without notice. Today, high performance insulating coatings use micro-sized material with nano-sized internal architecture that inhibits the transfer of heat, causing the material to act as an effective thin insulator – inside or out, and even when sandwiched between other materials. And some have a little extra: Because of their ability to enter the very intermolecular structure of materials like steel and synthetics, these coatings actually bond with the surface and bring extremely strong anti-corrosive characteristics, combined with unmatched tear-off rates, so they are very useful in maritime and industrial environments. Tear-off rates? Yes, thermal insulation coatings are typically applied like a paint.
Now, how does that help us on board of our vessels? Take five:
1. It insulates. The whole area.
Remember the cost you have for heating your HFO-lines? The diesel you use for keeping the suites warm? Or keeping the bridge cool? So, as we talk about thermal insulating coatings, this means we can further reduce the heat loss on our lines, as we can now cover the full 100%. Yes, INCLUDING the tight bends in small corners, the hard-to-reach tubes between the machinery and the lines running under the floors without cladding due to the lack of space. Typically, thermal insulating nanotech coatings are reported to show a performance of 10% to 25% reduction in energy costs and significantly reduced heat transfer.
2. It improves Safe Touch areas. No burns.
10 coats can reduce line temperatures from 150C/302F to 66C/152F and steam pipe and water cooling pipes to far under the 47C/118F level where skin burns start to develop, thermal insulating coatings can really enhance safety in the engine room.
3.It saves space. And sleep.
Walking around in engine rooms means climbing and descending small steps and ladders. Why? Cladding. Bumping ones chest and back against the wider-than-expected cladding of all kinds of lines and tubes, causes an unnecessary bending or denting of cladding and possibly tubes, disturbing ones balance or leaves you taking the long way home to the other side of the main. And how about room space on cruise ships.
And imagine… a 15 centimeter wider bed!
4.It makes metals strongly anti-corrosive.
As micro- and nanoparticles , like Hydro-NM-Oxide, build a matrix into the metal surfaces, all intermolecular space is taken. Water, oxygen, enzymes, acids and other usual suspects for corrosion can no longer enter the material. Several corrosion tests show that thermal insulating coatings really withstand severe environments that are notorious for causing corrosion. Also the chemical resistance of some of the thermal insulating coatings adds to the anti-corrosive properties. The material strength and structural integrity of the host metal remains unaffected.
5.It keeps tubular systems visible. Safe, not sorry.
Those who ever have stripped down cladding or glass wool insulation from a tubular system, looking for a leak, know what a mess that can make, and how much money and time it costs before everything is ship shape again. Thermal insulating coatings, especially the translucent ones, enable us to keep a good eye on what is going on with our systems. No surprise rust (from the inside out), no surprise cracks, and the opportunity to immediately check the metals whenever required.
An extra: Application. Over the years, another question regarding the use of thermal insulating coatings appeared to be: The application. Painting is relatively easy, and it sure beats the work and time that comes with cladding and insulating with old fibrous materials. At least your own crew can do the job, making it even more cost-effective than it was.
Does it mean we say goodbye to our old cladding and glass wool now? No. Sound reduction is not included when using thermal insulating coatings, and temperatures over 204C/400F are beyond the scope of these coatings. Still, when you are thinking of improving on safety and functionality in your engine room, nanotechnology might be part of your solution.