Insulating refractory brick (IRB) is the term used for heat insulating bricks and covers those heat insulating materials which are applied up to 1000 deg C. IRBs are often mistakenly referred to as rear insulation materials. These bricks are assigned to the group of lightweight refractory bricks and are manufactured on the basis of naturally occurring lightweight raw materials.
IRB is a class of brick, which consists of highly porous fireclay or kaolin. IRBs are lightweight, low in thermal conductivity, and yet sufficiently resistant to temperature to be used successfully on the hot side of the furnace wall, thus permitting thin walls of low thermal conductivity and low heat content. The low heat content is particularly important in saving fuel and time on heating up, allows rapid changes in temperature to be made, and permits rapid cooling. IRB is characterized by the presence of large amount of porosity in it. The pores are mostly closed pores. The presence of porosity decreases the thermal conductivity of the insulating bricks.
In other, less harsh situations, such as a natural gas fired kiln, more porous bricks are a better choice, usually referred to as Insulation Bricks. They are weaker, but they are much lighter, easier to form, and insulate far better than dense bricks. In this case they have a low thermal mass and so cannot be used to store heat. Insulation bricks have a better thermal shock resistance than dense firebricks but the main disadvantage is their low strength. The insulation property of these bricks usually comes from perlite or vermiculite. As with the dense refractory bricks there is a range of grades corresponding to different maximum service temperatures. The most common is Grade 23 – 1260oC.