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Summary:

These guys are making ultra-efficient insulation from 97 percent air, and oil refiners and power plant builders are loving it.

Aspen Aerogels

Things you never thought you wanted to know about: insulation. But here’s why at least one next-gen super-efficient insulation company is interesting.

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 10.08.05 AMA company called Aspen Aerogels makes a crazy space-age insulation blanket that is being used to insulate extreme environments like deep-sea oil refineries and astronauts in space. It turns out there’s enough demand for its intense energy-saving insulation out there that it’s planning to go public, and could raise up to $86.25 million in an IPO.

Aspen Aerogels uses nanotechnology to make an ultra-thin durable “aerogel,” which is a basically a blanket made out of pockets of air. Ninety-seven percent of the volume of Aspen’s aerogel is air.

The surrounding structure that makes up the blanket is made of silicon dioxide. Aspen makes the blankets by pouring a stream of ethanol filled with silicon dioxide into a mold and then heats it up to super high temperatures to remove the ethanol, leaving just the silica structure and air.

Air doesn’t transmit heat so well, and the blankets are extremely good at blocking heat or cold from escaping to the other side of the blanket. The aerogels are also very hard to light on fire, as you can see in this awesome video below, so they’re great for intensely hot environments like a power plant:

The majority (87 percent) of Aspen Aerogel’s customers are in the energy infrastructure industry, which use the product to insulate power plants and refineries. But about 10 percent of its customers come from outside of energy, like more traditional building construction companies, train car and plane makers, even some apparel companies (like for astronauts). The aerogel blankets are pretty expensive, or maybe regular homes builders would be using these more readily.

Founded in 2001, Aspen Aerogels isn’t yet profitable, and generated revenue of $86.10 million on a net loss of $47.61 million in 2013. But the company is growing rapidly and wants to raise money to add more factory capacity (they have a factory in East Providence, Rhode Island). It anticipates spending some $80 million to $100 million on new factory space.

This isn’t the first time that Aspen Aerogels has tried to go public. Last spring the company decided to withdraw an IPO filing and raise debt financing instead. Are the markets better this year? We’ll see.

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  1. So why isn’t that person getting burned by the surface that’s “only” 100 degrees Celsius?

    Asides from that, the technology looks amazing and also amazingly simple. I wonder what disposal would be like.

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    1. It doesn’t burn for the same reason sticking your hand into an oven baking food at 200 degrees Celsius doesn’t burn. The material, like air, is a poor conductor of heat. A person touching the material would conduct some of the surface heat to his finger, (cooling the material) but the material wouldn’t replace that heat quickly enough to cause injury. The finger can move the heat to the rest of the body faster than the material can heat the skin. (Up to a point.)

      If it were like water or iron, it could conduct the heat faster than the skin and flesh could move the heat away from that spot, and you receive a burn.

      Class dismissed.

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  2. From the Registration Statement

    • We have incurred net losses since our inception, and we may continue to incur net losses in the future and may never reach profitability;

    • We have yet to achieve positive cash flow, and our ability to generate positive cash flow is uncertain;

    • Our independent registered public accounting firm’s report contains an explanatory paragraph that expresses substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern;

    • We are dependent on a sole manufacturing facility. Any significant disruption to this facility or the failure of either of our two production lines in this facility to operate according to our expectation could have a material adverse effect on our business and our results of operations;

    • If we fail to achieve the increase in production capacity that our continued growth requires, our growth may be hindered and our business may be materially adversely affected;

    • If the expected growth in the demand of our products does not follow each of our planned capacity expansions, then our business will be materially adversely affected;

    • We will require significant additional capital to pursue our growth strategy beyond the construction of our third line in our East Providence facility, but we may not be able to obtain additional financing on acceptable terms or at all;

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  3. Dan, that is pretty standard “boilerplate” for investors. The “going concern” part is an issue, but the rest is basically a list of everything they think could possibly go wrong so if anything did happen, they could point to it and say “we told you it was a possibility” when an investor tries to sue because they lost money.

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  4. Resourceguy Thursday, May 1, 2014

    What is a deep-sea oil refinery? Do you mean deep-sea drilling components?

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    1. Hi Resource guy,

      The aerogel blankets are wrapped around pipes that carry oil along the seabed to on-shore (or off-shore) storage. If the “warm” oil isn’t insulated while in the pipe, it would turn into a sludge. To use aerogel blanketing on the sea floor you have to utilize a “pipe-within-a-pipe” arrangment where you’re insulating the inner pipe with the blanket. The beauty of aerogel is that, say for example, you had to run a twenty-mile length of stainless steel “outer” pipe to enclose the blanketed inner pipe. Would you want to pay for a 36″ diameter pipe to accomodate “regular” insulation to blanket your inner pipe, or a 12″ diameter pipe housing an aerogel-blanketed inner pipe? Stainless steel is expensive.

      Aspen Aerogel makes an outstanding product…

      - Former Aspen Aerogel employee

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  5. mits shinohara Saturday, June 7, 2014

    sounds like a great product with applications from housing & temporary emergency extreme weather shelter to safety garments, refrigeration appliance design & manufacturing.. will be looking for the public offering ..
    mits

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