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The University of Southampton
Rifi An Enterprise Consultancy Unit

Case Study: Measuring the thermal properties of a flexible insulation material

CTE measurement rig
CTE measurement rig

Objective: To develop a method to measure the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) of a flexible insulation material.


  • Armacell needed to measure the CTE of a flexible elastomeric foam (FEF).
  • The test results were needed to qualify the material before it was installed in a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plant.
  • The elasticity of the foam makes it difficult to accurately measure the CTE without an interferometer.
  • A new experimental method to measure CTE needed to be developed that would be traceable to an existing test standard.
  • Cryogenic expertise was needed to measure the CTE in the temperature range of 77 to 300 K.
  • What we did

  • Utilised in-house cryogenic design and manufacturing capabilities to build a bespoke test cell.
  • Applied knowledge and expertise to install low temperature instrumentation.
  • The new set-up was calibrated with an existing test standard to ensure traceability.
  • Expert data analysis and interpretation of the low temperature behaviour of the elastomeric material.
  • Impact

  • Armacell now has reliable data of the CTE of their FEF material at cryogenic temperatures.
  • Armacell have satisfied their client's requirements; and proved their material meets the design specification.
  • Armacell have successfully installed their FEF material at the LNG plant and secured new contracts to install their insulation at several other sites.
  • Armacell appreciated the communication, innovative thinking and the "added value" interpretations of results provided in this project.
  • RIfI have begun qualifying other FEF materials in the Armacell product range.
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