Advantages of Thermal Insulation Coatings

Copyright M. Van Hoorn


By Rob van Hoorn
CTO at nC Marine

Thermal and acoustic insulation, fire retardancy, safe touch and corrosion passivation in one, the chemical resistant and submersible coat.That is where the latest developments are about.

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 or cold and acoustics, causing the material to act as an effective thin insulator – inside or out. Some have a little extra: Safe-Touch surfaces and/or extreme fire retardancy. And 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 25%  to 35% reduction in energy costs and significantly reduced heat transfer.

2. It improves Safe Touch areas.

A 3 to 6 mm coat can reduce steam pipe and water cooling pipe temperatures from 150C/302F to 38C/100F, hence far under the 47C/118F level where skin burns start to develop. At this point, thermal insulating coatings can really enhance safety in the engine room.

Safe touch and having enough room are key for safety on board.

 3. It is fire retardant.

Today’s coatings can withstand welding temperature and fire temperatures for hours and hours. Even (nC ProTherm) coated polyester panels do not melt or bend for hours when exposed to a fire or flame-torch. This keeps the integrity of your construction intact for the longest possible time. Application of these thermal insulating and flame retardant coatings is simple: Brush, roller or spraygun, meaning for instance flame or IR protection can be done very locally.

4. It makes metals strongly anti-corrosive.

As micro- and nanoparticles , like quartz or silica, build a matrix into the metal surfaces, all intermolecular space is taken. A cold alloy primer that completely passivates metal and corrosion can be painted on new or already corroded metal in order to prevent the surfaces from corrosion under insulation. 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 brings a two-way acoustic insulation.

Limiting the transmission of sound from one area to another requires material that encloses the source of the noise and forms a barrier that absorbs vibrations between the source and the adjacent areas. There are two different types of sound: airborne and impact. Airborne noises come from voices, machines, etc. Impact noise includes vibrations from machines, exhausts, your washer and dryer or rotating propellers from other ships conveyed through the water to our hull. nC ProTherm reduces both airborne and impact noises. If your walls and hull are properly insulated, you’d probably be surprised at how much quieter noises from your neighbor or outside seem!

Visible, though insulated tubes. A QHSE improvement.

Extra: 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, 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.

Spray it on: The ability to cover all areas during the application of thermal insulation is there.


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. Also the fact that the insulating material can be applied in one coat is an advantage. At least your own crew can do the job, making it even more cost-effective than it was.

Note: The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dredging Today.