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Temperature-Controlled Shipments: 3 Types of Thermal Insulation Materials

Before deciding which insulation material to use for your temperature-controlled shipments, there are various things to be kept in mind. What’s the material, R-value, nature, price, functionality, and environmental impact? In this article we will go over the three most used thermal insulation materials and compare their performance.

Thermal Insulation Materials: What Are They? Why Are They Necessary?

First off, it is important to understand how heat is transferred. Heat is transferred by conduction (from molecules to molecules), convection (when heated air moves from one place to another) and radiation (when heat energy is transmitted in the form of light), or by a combination of all three. As shown in the image below, heat usually moves from high temperature to low temperature or from warmer areas to colder areas.

Thermal insulation materials act as a crucial tool to reduce heat transferring from one point to another. One of the key characteristics is measurement accuracy. The amount of heat transmission via any combination of materials can be calculated precisely to maintain the right temperature. Below you can find several factors and units for calculation:

  • Heat Energy (calculated in kilocalories)
  • Thermal Conductivity (calculated in kilocalories)
  • Thermal Resistance (calculated in R-Value)
  • Resistance in Water Vapor (calculated in RV)

The primary purpose of thermal insulation materials used in temperature-controlled shipments is to reduce the transmission of heat through the walls of packaging material. By reducing the amount of heat leakage, Life Sciences products are protected from surrounding area temperatures to ensure the quality of the product is maintained.

What are the 3 Types of Thermal Insulation Materials for Your Shipment?

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) or the ‘white foam’, is an insulation material to protect temperature-controlled products. This material is usually used for dry ice shipments. Consisting mainly of air bubbles, EPS has good insulating properties as it reduces heat transferring through the material. The R-value reaches 4. Furthermore, EPS is highly resistant to moisture absorption, creating strong protection in wet or moist environment. Other advantages of EPS include low cost, light weight, recyclable and reusable.

Polyurethane (PUR)

Polyurethane (PUR) or the ‘yellow foam’, is another excellent form of insulation. This material is used for shipments with CoolGuard PCM packages. With an R-value of 6.3, PUR does not allow external temperatures to get into the cooling object. Compared to EPS, PUR is more durable. The weight of PUR is also relatively low, weighing around 2 pounds per cubic foot. This could be a good option for temperature-controlled shipments.

Vacuum Insulation Panels (VIPs)

Among all, Vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) have the best performance in maintaining the right temperature for your shipments. This material is commonly used in shipments with CoolGuard Advance packages and Credo Cubes. In terms of the VIP design, the glass fiber core is coated in laminate film to create up to six vacuums inside and recycled material outside. They are the thinnest and lightest out of all insulation options, however, they perform 5 to 20 times better than ESP and PUR. With the R-value of 60, VIPs offer the highest level of thermal protection, while they also meet the energy efficiency regulations and standards.

VIPs are considered as the ideal solution for temperature-controlled shipments as they require less refrigerant to maintain temperatures. Consequently, this leads to lower dimension weight and shipping costs.

Comparison Table: Thermal Insulation Materials for Temperature-Controlled Shipments

Royale International provides customized Life Sciences logistics solutions to suit your business needs. No matter which thermal insulation materials you are looking for, we specialize in the worldwide handling and transportation of on-time and sensitive temperature-controlled products for the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industries.

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