A more efficient cryogenic insulation. Reduce your boil-off rate, increase your tank capacity, lower your operating expenses, and improve your returns on invested capital.
Liquified gases like hydrogen, nitrogen, liquid natural gas, oxygen, and argon are usually stored below their boiling points (i.e. 20 Kelvin for liquid hydrogen) in tanks with two walls and an annular space filled with insulating material. This is known as cryogenic or cold storage. Historically, an expanded volcanic glass called perlite was often used to fill the annular space in cryogenic storage vessels.
3M glass bubbles offer significant advantages over perlite when it comes to thermal efficiency, durability, and weight savings. With their engineered spherical glass shape, low thermal conductivity, and high strength-to-density ratio, 3M glass bubbles offer a more effective and economical alternative to traditional cryogenic insulation.
As we look towards a future where the hydrogen economy becomes increasingly important, the economic impact of transporting and storing this fuel source will continue to grow. By dramatically reducing the boil off emissions from liquid hydrogen storage tanks, 3M Glass Bubbles are an integral part of the global shift from fossil fuels to sustainable hydrogen-based energy sources.
The low thermal conductivity of 3M glass bubbles makes them ideal for cryogenic insulation. In cryogenic storage applications, boil-off rate (the rate that a liquid gas is lost via evaporation) is a primary consideration.
3M glass bubbles can help reduce the boil-off rate considerably, including up to 44% reduction for hydrogen in large storage volume, concentric storage spheres.
3M glass bubbles’ excellent thermal performance and low bulk density can reduce the insulation requirements in the tank’s annulus. This may increase your tank’s capacity or reduce the design footprint of your tank while maintaining similar storage volumes.
Plus, the strength and shape of 3M glass bubbles make them more durable and easier to work with. This all adds up to greater flexibility for your application.
The 3M supply chain, global sales team, and customer service network offer the efficiency and support you need to optimize your cryogenic storage insulation needs.
We offer packages in multiple formats to help you meet your requirements. Unlike other insulation materials, 3M glass bubbles don’t require onsite processing — increasing the efficiency of your installation.
In addition to their excellent thermal performance — which reduces boil-off rate vs. perlite — 3M glass bubbles offer notable advantages in cryogenic storage applications.
MLI (superinsulation) is used for cylindrical tank construction, typically to transport cryogens. These systems can be sensitive to thermal shock and vibrations, which can lead to degradation of the insulation and potentially cause cold spots. Additionally, MLI is a fixed insulation solution that doesn’t lend itself to easy removal or modification.
The 50,000 gallon hydrogen storage tank at NASA’s Stennis Space Center was constructed in the early 1960s. This spherical cryogenic storage (Horton) vessel consisted of double walls with an evacuated perlite-filled annulus. In the early 2000s, NASA began looking for ways to reduce the amount of hydrogen they were losing throughout their liquid hydrogen storage systems, due to evaporation. Under the leadership of the Cryogenics Test Laboratory team at the Kennedy Space Center, they conducted a trial using 3M glass bubbles for thermal insulation in the tank. Over 10+years of continuous operation, their technical publications show an average 44% reduction in boil-off.