Thermal Insulation Producer Liatris Nets Federal Funding

Liatris was recently awarded a $1 million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Science Foundation.

Liatris was recently awarded a $1 million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Science Foundation.

Maryland-based construction technology startup Liatris, which mass produces thermal insulation for buildings, recently received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

The company was awarded $1 million as part of a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award

Liatris received the award to help improve the affordability, comfort and safety of buildings through the use of thermal insulation. The company will focus on developing a lightweight, easy-to-install, non-combustible insulation that is eco-friendly and non-toxic. 

Not only does the project aim to one piece in the larger sustainability picture, it also hopes to reduce building fires. According to the NSF, structure fires represent 37% of all fires in the US, causing $12.3 billion in property damage and 80% of civilian fire deaths. 

According to the NSF, the SBIR funding seeks to scale up a novel nanocomposite insulation product using a proprietary foaming process for inorganic aerogel-based insulation that minimizes shrinkage, maximizing porosity for insulation performance and minimizing material and processing cost.

The insulation is made from clay and silica, as well as cellulose biomass. NSF said that if the startup is able to successfully scale up production, it could solve a significant materials research challenge, creating organic-inorganic nanocomposites for thermal insulation with a competitive cost/performance ratio, as opposed to products such as fiberglass, mineral wool and plastic foams.

The Phase II project may result in the first industrially-engineered composite material for thermal insulation that is fully non-combustible. The integration of flexible polymers and radiation blocking additives would also enable use for high-temperature industrial pipe insulation, a critical energy-saving application where most existing products have significant limitations due to radiation loss.

The project is the second federal government award for Liatris in the past six months. Liatris received a $1.6 million Department of Energy BENEFIT award in October 2021, to develop high-performance R-10/inch building insulation. 

“Creating more energy-efficient buildings and industrial processes represents one of our most impactful societal challenges,” said Frank Yang, Liatris’s president & CEO. “Our need to reduce the economic, environmental and geopolitical impact of high energy consumption has never been greater. Increasing the portfolio of insulation materials that directly cut heating and cooling losses is a significant and urgent piece of this equation.”

Liatris is adding six full-time employees at its Maryland lab facility for the two new projects. The 4,880-square-foot Class A lab is part of the new TwinLabs project re-developed by GlenLine Investments in buildings previously occupied by the National Institutes of Health.

Liatris is collaborating with various state and local agencies to scale up lab infrastructure and training, using programs such as the Montgomery County MOVE Incentive, Maryland Project RESTORE and the Maryland Technology Internship Program.

Since winning the Sto Building Materials Challenge in June 2019, where Liatris’s non-flammable building insulation technology was the highest rated tech among more than 400 entrants, Liatris has raised over $4 million in follow-on funding from collaborative research awards and investor funding, including an $1 million seed round last July.