Advancements in thermal insulation materials for refrigerated transport

In the realm of refrigerated transport, the quest for more efficient and sustainable insulation materials is pivotal. The cold chain logistics industry, crucial for the transport of perishable goods, is witnessing an era of rapid innovation, aiming to minimize energy consumption while maximizing thermal efficiency. This blog post delves into the latest advancements in thermal insulation materials for refrigerated transport, highlighting innovative solutions that go beyond traditional insulation methods.

Vacuum insulation panels (vips)

Vacuum insulation panels (vips) represent a significant leap forward in insulation technology for refrigerated transport. Unlike conventional foam insulation, vips contain a gas-tight enclosure from which the air has been evacuated, creating a vacuum. This vacuum dramatically reduces heat transfer by conduction and convection, offering superior insulation performance in a thinner profile. According to the journal of building engineering, vips can provide about five to ten times better thermal resistance than traditional foam insulation, making them an ideal solution for refrigerated transport applications where space and weight are critical constraints.


Aerogels, often referred to as “Frozen smoke” due to their translucent appearance, are among the lightest solid materials existing and are being explored for use in refrigerated transport insulation. Their structure, composed of over 90% air, makes them excellent thermal insulators. Aerogels have a thermal conductivity lower than that of still air, which translates to exceptional insulation properties. Recent advancements have led to more flexible and resilient aerogel composites that can withstand the rigors of transport applications, offering potential for significant energy savings in refrigerated logistics.

Phase change materials (pcms)

Phase change materials (pcms) offer a unique approach to thermal insulation by absorbing or releasing heat as they change from solid to liquid or vice versa. This property allows pcms to maintain a stable temperature within refrigerated containers over extended periods, reducing the reliance on mechanical cooling systems. Innovations in microencapsulation technology have enabled the integration of pcms into various materials, such as panels or liners, providing an effective way to enhance thermal stability in refrigerated transport. Studies in the applied energy journal have demonstrated the potential of pcms to improve the energy efficiency of refrigerated vehicles, particularly in maintaining temperature setpoints during transient conditions.

Bio-based insulation materials

The drive towards sustainability has spurred the development of bio-based insulation materials for refrigerated transport. Materials such as cork, sheep wool, and cellulose are being explored as eco-friendly alternatives to synthetic insulations. These materials not only offer competitive thermal insulation properties but also contribute to reducing the environmental impact of refrigerated transport. For instance, cork’s natural cellular structure provides excellent thermal and acoustic insulation, while its renewable nature and biodegradability make it an attractive option for sustainable logistics solutions.

Reflective insulations

Reflective insulation materials, which work by reflecting radiant heat rather than absorbing it, are gaining traction in refrigerated transport. These materials typically consist of reflective surfaces, such as aluminum foils, combined with polymer or bubble wrap layers. Reflective insulations are particularly effective in reducing heat gain from solar radiation, a significant challenge in refrigerated transport. By incorporating these materials into the design of refrigerated vehicles or containers, it’s possible to significantly reduce cooling requirements and energy consumption during daylight transport.


The advancements in thermal insulation materials for refrigerated transport are transforming the industry, offering solutions that are not only more efficient but also more sustainable. From vacuum insulation panels and aerogels to phase change materials and bio-based options, these innovations are setting new standards for thermal efficiency in the cold chain logistics sector. As the demand for refrigerated transport continues to grow, driven by global food distribution and pharmaceutical logistics, the adoption of these advanced materials will be key to achieving energy savings, sustainability, and enhanced performance in the cold chain.