The Life Vicorpan Project, for the development of energy efficient and recyclable vacuum insulation panels (VIP), is spearheaded by Cannon Afros with co-funding from the European Union’s LIFE program (LIFE20 CCM/IT001644). It is targeted at developing and delivering panels with significantly enhanced performance and sustainability vs. existing VIP panels for refrigerators, freezers, and cooling cabinets.
Cannon Afros is in partnership with Epta, a multinational industrial Group specialized in commercial refrigeration, who will integrate the new VIP panels into its products, and BASF Polyurethanes, who brings knowledgeable insulation chemistry and open cell foam-based VIP solutions.
Maurizio Corti, Corporate Technology and R&D Coordinator at Cannon, said: “Thermal performance of typical VIPs with a micro glass-fiber board core encapsulated in an aluminum foil adhered to sides and top of refrigerators have a much lower thermal conductivity than conventional foam insulation. However, glass-fiber VIPs cause significant challenges during the recycling process of refrigeration devices due to the liberation of the filler material. They can release as well, during production, very thin particles that can be considered potential polluters of the working environment. Additionally, their aluminum borders may compromise a considerable amount of the insulation capacity provided by the vacuum, especially at the corners. The Vicorpan solution is dedicated to overcoming these issues with a contoured open-cell polyurethane core panel. The possibility to shape the cores can reduce the border effect and bring more flexibility to the insertion of the panels into the shell of the cooling cabinet.”
The Vicorpan design is expected to provide up to 17 % lower heat transmission in commercial refrigerators and freezers based on a conventional PU foam insulation, helping manufacturers to meet higher categories of the rescaled energy efficiency labeling for refrigerators in Europe.
The use of an open cells PU-based core would eliminate pollution and safety concerns during the production, assembling and at the end-of-life recycling of the refrigerators components and contribute to a much better recyclability of the refrigeration devices. The Project will also test cores reinforced with bio-sourced porous fillers such as rice husks, cereal straw, and sugarcane bagasse to also measure their carbon footprint reduction potential.
Moreover, they will also reduce the weight, and therefore their total carbon footprint, in relation to current VIP panels from 300 to about 50-60 g/cm³ and enable a better combination of VIPs and polyurethane foam to guarantee the structure of insulated cabinets.
In addition, the Project will trial the design and insertion of VIP panels inserted between the condenser and the evaporator at the back of refrigerators, an area that is often overlooked and yet most critical for thermal transmission. The Life Vicorpan Project is currently at a pre-industrial stage, with functional prototypes under evaluation.
Cannon Afros, a company of the Cannon Group, is a leading supplier of dosing systems, mixing equipment, processing technologies and expertise for the thermal insulation of domestic and commercial refrigerators using polyurethane resin-based formulations.