EERE Success Story—Dow Partners with ORNL to Commercialize Advanced Energy-Saving Sealant for Buildings

June 1, 2016

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A liquid sealant developed by Dow Chemical, and evaluated at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was recognized recently for its superior sealant qualities and performance. LIQUIDARMOR, marketed by Dow, won the 2016 Gold Edison Award for Building Construction & Lighting. The Edison Awards honor the best in innovation and excellence in the development of new products and services.

LIQUIDARMOR™ Flashing and Sealant is the only sprayable liquid flashing on the market. It significantly reduces air leakage through the building envelope and helps to make residential and commercial buildings more energy efficient. Dow patented the product and introduced it to the U.S. market in 2014, and it was recognized as an R&D 100 Award Finalist in 2015.

LIQUIDARMOR is a one-step liquid flashing that can be brushed or sprayed on surfaces to seal gaps, cracks, and seams in the building envelope, and is effective on rough openings where windows and doors are installed. The fluid nature of the product allows it to “fill” as well as “bridge” gaps, providing additional robustness of seal. Enhanced sealing technologies like this one have the potential to reduce energy losses related to air leakage by about 50%.

The annual energy loss from air leakage in buildings is estimated to be about four quads (4 quadrillion BTUs) or about 4% of the total energy used in the United States.

“Reducing air leakage in residential and commercial buildings is among the most cost-effective means to lower energy consumption because of the building envelope,” said Diana Hun, building technologies researcher at ORNL. “We have the ability to evaluate air barrier assemblies to determine whether sealants like LIQUIDARMOR can stand up to the elements and improve energy efficiency.”

The elastomeric — or rubbery — liquid adheres well to most substrates, even as buildings settle or adjust to wind pressures and changes in temperature. Additionally, its water-based acrylic formula significantly decreases workers’ exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and reduces VOC emissions into the atmosphere.

“One of the main advantages a liquid sealant such as LIQUIDARMOR has over tape is that it is faster to install,” Hun said. “Because it can be sprayed on, installation can be as much as three to four times faster than tape. Also, the spraying process can be more forgiving and foolproof, and a high-quality seal can be more reliably achieved, especially in areas with complex shapes.”

Hun and her research team rigorously evaluated the sealant’s effectiveness on an expedited basis by using ORNL’s unique Heat, Air, and Moisture (HAM) Penetration chamber that measures the impact that various environmental conditions have on wall assemblies treated with LIQUIDARMOR. The HAM chamber — the only apparatus of its kind — simulates indoor temperatures of 60°F to 90°F and outdoor temperatures of 0°F to 110°F. Additionally, the chambers can subject walls to 10 to 90% relative humidity and other outdoor conditions such as rain, solar radiation, and pressures from wind and wind gusts that range from -30 to 30 pounds per square foot.

For example, in one of the evaluations the team installed LIQUIDARMOR on a wall assembly to seal ¼ in.-wide gaps between THERMAX™ Brand rigid insulation boards and fiberglass-reinforced exterior drywall, and those around common penetrations such as electrical outlets and PVC pipes. The evaluation process lasted about five days. With the help of ORNL’s HAM chambers and expertise, Dow was able to validate the performance of LIQUIDARMOR after being installed without a supporting material. This feature significantly reduces the amount of time and skill that is needed to properly seal gaps around complex shapes.

DOE’s Building Technologies Office sponsored the ORNL-Dow collaboration through the US–China Clean Energy Research Center for Building Energy Efficiency (CERC BEE), which supports the development of advanced technologies to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the United States and China. The two nations have renewed their commitments to the research center for another five years, from 2016 – 2020, during which ORNL will continue to research and develop technologies for improving building envelope efficiency.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) success stories highlight the positive impact of its work with businesses, industry partners, universities, research labs, and other entities.