ISOBIO aims to develop new bio-based insulation panels and renders, and to scale them for mainstream adoption by the building and construction industry. ISOBIO researchers have been working on ways to improve their resistance to fire and decay. Dr Mike Lawrence from the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials at the University of Bath explains how the application of high technology film coatings can help.
The benefits of using plant-based materials in construction are well known. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, generating oxygen and water in the process, so when incorporated into a building offer the possibility of carbon negative construction. One possible drawback is that these materials, being carbon based, are intrinsically flammable, and susceptible to decay.
The traditional way of dealing with these issues is either to protect the material by good detailing or to incorporate fire protective chemicals such as Borax. Researchers at the University of Bath and TWI have been looking at a radical new approach, by coating the individual particles with a microscopic layer of silica, one billionth of a metre in thickness, so thin that it is completely invisible except under a scanning electron microscope.
In spite of the small amount of material being used, the researchers have shown that this layer can not only give added fire resistance, but by using some clever chemical manipulation, the layer can make the particles hydrophobic. This resistance to water means that agents of decay such as bacteria and fungi, cannot reproduce, making the material much more robust. This means that the materials will last longer and will be much more resilient to disasters such as flooding.
These scientific advances will be incorporated into the novel ISOBIO panels and plasters that will be available on the market by the end of the decade.