Insulating materials: characteristics and examples

Insulating materials are those that reduce, resist, or completely prevent the passage of some kind of energy such as heat or electricity. They serve to protect living beings, food, and other objects from the elements and their conditions; such as the plastic coating on cables and the walls or roofs of houses.

To perform their function well, these materials mainly need to have a low thermal conductivity that allows them to reduce heat transmission. They must also have a high resistance to very high temperatures that prevent them from melting.
some thermal insulation materials

Air permeability is also a very important property of thermal insulators. They must be materials where air can flow through their pores. Good thermal insulators have a high permeability to air since air is an insulating substance itself.

This permeability should not allow the passage of steam or moisture, so as to avoid or minimize the condensation of liquids or corrosion of materials. The best thermal insulators have very low permeability to steam and moisture.

The insulating material must be resistant to water, solvents, and chemicals more descriptive materializes you can find in wowessay in architectural essay section; it must be durable and not lose its efficiency in a short time. It should be easy to install, non-flammable, not absorb odors, and not attract fungi or vermin.

Examples of thermal insulators

1- Fiberglass

It is one of the most used because of its low heat transmission coefficient and high resistance. It also works to isolate electrical and sound currents. It is made by weaving fine glass polymer filaments to form rods, sheets, or panels.

2- Mineral wool

It can be manufactured from basalt rocks or from the surface residue of the molten metal. It is used for its high fire resistance, but it is recommended to combine it with other materials to obtain more efficient heat protection.

3- Cellulose

It is one of the most ecological insulating materials on the market. It is made from the recycling of various paper products.

It is a material that can be compacted quite a bit, which reduces the presence of oxygen among its particles. This property makes it excellent for minimizing fire damage.

4- Polystyrene

It is a very lightweight and water-resistant thermoplastic material that is very good as a temperature and sound insulator.

It is used to make blocks or boards of polyethylene foam molded to need. It is flammable, so it is advisable to line it with other fireproof materials.

5- Polyurethane

It is an insulating foam that contains gas in its cells, which is of very low conductivity and high thermal resistance. It can be used as a foamy liquid for spraying, in rigid foam blocks or molded into sheets or panels.

6- Perlite

It is a type of inert volcanic rock composed mainly of silica and aluminum but with some impurities that make it absorb moisture.

It is used in small granules to fill small spaces and holes. It is a good thermal insulator but works only if it is dry. Its use has been increasingly reduced due to its poisonous quality.

7- Cork

It is probably the oldest insulation material on the market and the most widely used insulation in the refrigeration industry. It is very resistant to compression and difficult to burn. It can only be used below 65°C and tends to absorb moisture.

8- Plastic fiber

It is mainly made of recycled polyethylene plastic bottles. The fibers are woven into a cane shape similar to fiberglass.

This insulation is worked with a retardant so that it does not burn as quickly but can melt when exposed to flame.

9- Aerogel

Initially, it was a material used by space projects to make tiles resistant to approximately 2000 °F with very little heat transfer.

It is currently available on the market in flexible sheets called Pyrogel XT. It is one of the most efficient industrial insulators in the world.

10- Vermiculite

Like pearlite, it is dangerous to your health. It is used in small granules that are thrown among other materials or to fill holes. It also used to be mixed with cement to create a lighter, less heat-conductive concrete.

11- Polysocyanurate

It is a thermosetting foam plastic that contains in its cells a low conductivity and high resistance gas, free of hydrochlorofluorocarbons. The liquid foam can be adapted to the required surfaces.

12- Cotton

As an insulator, it combines with plastic and borate fibers to make it resistant to animals and to retard their inflammation.

13- Animal wool

It is also treated with borate to resist vermin, fire, and mold. It can withstand large amounts of water but prolonged and intermittent exposure to the liquid can dissolve the borate.

14- Straw

Used for over 150 years in the form of bales to insulate barns and houses from heat. They also serve to absorb sound.

15- Hemp

This material is commonly used to make rope and is currently used as insulation as well as other similar vegetable fibers such as straw or wool.

Examples of electrical insulators

1- Wood

Wood is an electrical insulator, and it is still common to see light poles made of wood. However, it should be noted that it is not an insulator as long as the wood is dry, since water (and therefore moisture) does conduct electricity.

2- Rubber

This material, in addition to being very malleable, flexible, and resistant, is perfect for preventing the conduction of electricity. For example, professionals who work directly with electricity use boots made of rubber to preserve their safety.

3- Ceramic

Ceramic restricts ionic and electronic mobility, therefore it is a non-conductive material. This makes it ideal for the manufacture of high voltage discs.

4- Silicone

This widely used material has, among other things, the capacity to isolate electricity. This makes it ideal for sealing electronic components and fixing components.

5- Aluminum oxide

Because it is a non-conductive material, aluminum oxide is perfect for the manufacture of temperature or electrical insulators, laser tubes or sealing rings.

Examples of acoustic insulators

1- Lead

It is the most used material for acoustic insulation due to its quality/price ratio. Its density, rigidity or porosity are some of its main strengths.

2- Steel

Steel causes the sound to bounce when it hits it, so it is a very powerful sound insulator. Building doors or panels in bars and leisure centers are usually made of steel to maintain internal or external sound insulation.

3- Rock wool

It is actually an acoustic absorber, but it also serves effectively for sound insulation. It is a robust material that is widely used in certain structures because it is aesthetically attractive.

4- Elastomers

The material used for the construction of homes for its ability to isolate sound, maintain heat and prevent the generation of cracks or fissures. It has a high life cycle.

How does the heat flow?

The heat will always move from hot areas to cold areas looking for balance. If the inside of a tank protected by thermal insulation is colder than the air outside, the tank will attract heat from the outside. The greater the temperature difference, the faster the heat will flow to the pool area.


It is the way energy moves through materials from molecule to molecule. This requires physical contact between the particles and a certain difference in temperature; when a spoon is placed in a hot coffee cup, the heat is conducted from the liquid to the metal and through the handle to the hand.


It is the way liquids and gases transport heat when they move from one place to another. This is why lighter, warmer air seeks to rise, and cold, dense air tends to seek out the ground level.


It is the transmission of energy directly through a completely transparent medium by heating all solid material in its path. This occurs, for example, with light as infrared radiation (a magnifying glass) or with some type of electromagnetic waves.

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