Electricity, gas and oil cost more than in the past, so intelligent energy management has never been more critical than today. Yet what does energy efficiency actually mean? What are the amazing benefits – for the environment and our own bank accounts? Must we accept radical limitations in an effort to use significantly less energy?
Properties make up forty per-cent of Europe’s energy use and 33 % of its green house gas emissions. To change our society into an energy-efficient and decarbonised one, energy-intelligent buildings will need to play a crucial role. Most new construction proposals include the provision of energy efficient solutions like solar thermal heating systems, combined heat and power (CHP), heat pumps and thermal energy storage. All of these solutions are commercially available at present. There is yet another, cost-effective solution available however: eco friendly insulating material.
For a lot of seaside residents, seaweed washed up on the shore is nothing but a nuisance. However what does that have to do with properties and heating? In germany researchers have found out that this organic material has the potential to keep buildings well insulated. Along with industry partners, researchers have been successful in converting it into a plausible insulation material.
In autumn, winter and spring, Mediterranean seashores are full of tiny balls of seaweed from the Posidonia oceanica plant, usually known as Neptune grass. Even though this natural fabric is deemed a waste product and customarily ends up as landfill, this readily abundant and eco-friendly fabric is in fact simply too precious to be thrown away. The seaweed showcases a number of characteristics making it of great interest to the construction trade, such as virtual non-flammability and ability to resist mould. You can use it as an insulating material without making use of chemical ingredients, and can be implemented in between the rafters of pitched roofs and against interior walls. Seaweed fibres work as a buffer, soaking up water vapour and letting it go again without impairing its own capability to keep the building insulated.
But how exactly is seaweed processed into a construction product? It is a challenging task, as it is difficult to get rid of adherent sand inside the Neptune balls. On top of that, individual fibres snag easily on anything at all, this includes one another, and are fast to form new clumps when processing and then when being blown into gaps in need of insulation. Nevertheless, new tricks for converting Neptune balls into practical insulating material have been produced by the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT, in collaboration with other professional partners. The project partners’ objective was to produce an insulating material capable of being stuffed or blown into the space effortlessly.
Ultimately an additional advantage of Neptune balls is that they are environmentally friendly – the whole manufacturing process entails very little energy. Neptune balls are harvested by hand and taken to Germany by sea from Tunisia or by road from Albania.
The Posidonia fibres already have proved their value in an array of completely new building projects and refurbishments of pre-existing buildings. There are now plans to construct solid, ecologically-sound sheets using this product in an effort to provide a extensive system for insulating roofs, exterior walls, interior walls and basement ceilings. More reports on the substance are now being completed by researchers from Fraunhofer Institute. For the time being, a business called NeptuTherm e.K. has given its name to the brand new novel heat retaining material, and is now promoting and distributing it.