Eco-innovative building materials enhance indoor climate

The use of conventional construction materials in buildings often has an adverse effect on the quality of air in buildings. In the last few years, there has been an increasing trend towards replacing these materials with natural alternatives. One such solution is provided by multi-layered products on the basis of biocomposites.

Conventional building materials often contain harmful substances, such as VOCs and formaldehyde, which are released over time and contaminate the indoor air. One possible alternative to this is to make use of natural materials, such as multi-layered interior and exterior walls, which have the same insulating, protective, fire- and damp-resistant qualities as conventional building materials.

The basic idea behind the European OSIRYS project is the development of wood-based biocomposites which address this growing need for improved air quality and energy efficiency in new and renovated buildings.

From waste to building material

The consortium is working with new eco-innovative building materials which provide a healthier indoor climate by eliminating micro-organisms, by improving thermal and acoustic insulation and by regulating the condition of the building systems. Other desirable qualities include safety, energy efficiency and affordability.

To this end, the materials used by researchers include thermosetting epoxy resins from forestry waste and lignin-based thermoplastic polymers, reinforced by natural fibres such as wood, flax and hemp. Cork granules are also used thanks to the material's excellent insulating qualities. Special attention is given to additives, such as flame retardants. Coatings, amongst other things, have also been developed in order to improve air quality (for instance op the basis of TiO2).

Biocomposites

One of the developments in this project concerns biocomposites with exceptional durability. The use of fibre-reinforced polymers in the construction industry is a recent phenomenon and there is, as yet, scant knowledge as to how such materials behave in both the long and short term. The sustainability of fibre-reinforced structures depends on specific environmental conditions, such as alkalinity (water hardness), humidity and temperature and long-term effects (deformation, functioning and material fatigue).

One of the aims of developing such materials is impact minimisation on the environment, plus improved sustainability, in outdoor situations too. This can be achieved by adding an external layer to protect the biocomposite against degradation resulting from external factors, such as UV rays, wind, rain and temperature fluctuations. Not only does this mean fewer maintenance checks, but the improved longevity of buildings too.

In this way it's possible to meet the technical requirements of the construction industry and so increase the share of biocomposites in this demanding market.

(Photo: http://omnexus.specialchem.com)

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