Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Aerogel Insulation for Refrigerated Trailers(21184)

American Aerogel Corporation


American Aerogel Corporation (AAC) manufactures vacuum insulated panels (VIPs) comprising carbon-based aerogel panels encased in vacuum sealed aluminized polyester bags. These VIPs provide very high thermal insulation properties, but their high cost has to date limited their use to small containers for high-value shipments. ACC has a concept for applying scaled-up VIPs to refrigerated trailers (reefers) that are used for shipping produce and other perishables. If this idea can be implemented it could greatly reduce the amount of fuel used by the diesel-powered refrigeration systems on reefers, and could enable an overall trailer redesign that would increase cargo space. The project team includes Kraft Foods, the second largest food company in the world, and Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co., the largest builder of reefers. Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is assisting by providing testing and analytical services.

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Project Description

The overall goal is to improve the energy efficiency of reefers. The effort will entail: work with RIT to set up a lab for side-by-side tests of two reefers in a temperature-controlled environment; acquisition of two reefers and installation of test instrumentation; testing to determine baseline performance of the reefers; modification of one of the reefers to incorporate VIPs in several configurations; side-by-side tests of the two trailers to measure energy savings resulting from the modifications; updating a computer model used for predicting energy impacts of alternative trailer design options; and analysis to resolve structural issues.


Relative to conventional polyurethane foam insulation, VIPs on a reefer can: reduce load on the refrigeration system and thereby reduce diesel fuel consumption and air pollution; improve productivity by reducing trailer wall thickness such that twice as many standard pallets can be accommodated on non-refrigerated backhauls; greatly extend reefer life, which is presently limited by polyurethane’s progressive loss of insulation properties; and reduce the volume of waste going to landfills due to a switch to a more compact, longer-lived alternative.

Project Results


American Aerogel Corporation
460 Buffalo Rd., Suite 200-A Attn: Greg Goodridge
Rochester, NY 14611

Principle Investigator

Todd Nordblom

Universities Involved

Rochester Institute of Technology


Project Type:

Product Development

Technologies Types:

Med/Heavy Duty

NYSERDA Contact Information

Joseph Wagner


R&D -Transport & Power Systems

Contract Details

Start Date: 3/30/2011
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: 21184

Last Updated: 9/11/2014