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.
A 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.