The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced it will distribute more than $60 million to develop and market new energy-efficient products, including aerogels for insulating glass units (IGU).

The $63.5 million in funding is provided through DOE’s Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy Technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) program. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm says funding recipients have demonstrated a viable path to market their technologies, which will help various sectors become more energy-efficient and reliable. Technologies will also help empower the private sector to boost American energy manufacturing, which has fallen behind other industries, such as China, Granholm adds.

An aerogel-insulated window prototype, which is over 60% more efficient than comparable double-pane windows used in homes today. Photo: AeroShield.

According to DOE officials, four projects were selected, including technologies focused on aerogels for energy-efficient IGUs, thermal batteries to supply combined heat and power from renewable electricity, energy-dense solid-state batteries and cement decarbonization.

Recipients include Waltham, Massachusetts-based AeroShield Materials. Officials say the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) spin-out will receive $14.5 million in funding to develop a pilot manufacturing facility for aerogels for high-efficiency IGUs. The technology will enable commercial and residential buildings to become more energy-efficient, meeting current and future Energy Star targets for windows.

“This award validates our mission to decarbonize the built environment, and that windows need to improve to enable the U.S. to meet our energy security and sustainability goals,” says AeroShield CEO Elise Strobach, Ph.D. “We are excited by the opportunity to bring together Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and leading window and door manufacturers to co-develop and launch super-insulating window products that help home and building owners reduce carbon emissions by gigatons while saving billions in heating and cooling costs.”

AeroShield was founded in 2019 to commercialize silica aerogels, a technology developed amid Strobach’s research at MIT while earning her doctorate degree. Silica aerogels feature several unique attributes, such as ultra-low density, super-insulation and heat resistance. NASA has used them for decades to insulate equipment and collect comet dust.

AeroShield‘s aerogel can be added as a coating to the inner glass of windows and doors to improve energy performance by up to 65%. Photo: AeroShield.

Despite their energy-efficient features, aerogels are typically opaque and have a blue hue—characteristics that do not mesh well with windows and glass doors. AeroShield, however, has developed a silica aerogel that has increased clarity. According to AeroShield officials, the company’s silica is more transparent than glass, two times more insulating than air and lighter than a marshmallow. It can be added as a coating to the inner glass of doors and windows to improve energy performance by up to 65%, saving money and reducing carbon emissions.

“We know that windows present a weak point in building efficiency,” says ARPA-E director Evelyn Wang. “With this challenge, there is also an enormous opportunity to reduce heat losses from windows. AeroShield developed aerogels for high-efficiency IGUs through an earlier ARPA-E program, and now, with SCALEUP funding, the company will develop a pilot manufacturing facility to validate the cost and performance in collaboration with their commercialization partners.”

Strobach says AeroShield intends to focus on doors and windows initially but plans to explore other projects, such as retrofitting.

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