Glass blocks have been utilized for many decades to create translucent walls or wall sections. However, glass block is not able to create loadbearing walls and is not a good insulating material. A group of Swiss researchers have developed a new aerogel-filled translucent brick that is both highly insulating and can create load-bearing walls.
The new glass bricks were developed by Dr. Jannis Wernery and colleagues from Switzerland’s Empa research group. They’ve taken translucent silica aerogel granules and used them to fill the voids between sheets of clear glass which are joined together with epoxy resin spacers to form long rectangular bricks that enable both daylighting and privacy.
The new bricks have measured conductivity of 53 milliwatts per meter kelvin. This is better insulating performance that any brick in the technical literature or on the market, today. The bricks’ compressive strength is 44.9 megapascals which is several times higher than clay insulating bricks and brick blocks on the market, today. This enables the bricks to create load-bearing walls. Despite higher upfront costs, the glass bricks can reduce windows as well as heat and electricity bills, making them potentially cost competitive on a system basis. Empa is seeking an industrial partner for commercialization of the glass brick technology.
In a previous post, I shared the recent development of translucent concrete here. The aerogel glass bricks were shown by the researchers to enable thinner walls with less than ¼ the thermal conductance (U-value) of translucent concrete.
The research report on glass bricks is published here.