Cellulosic Thermal Insulation with Improved Water Resistance and Fire Retardancy

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Sweden is one of the largest countries by area in Europe, and almost 70% of it is covered by forest. These abundant forest resources benefit the Swedish bioeconomy, but the pulp and paper industry is facing the challenge of a decrease in the demand for printing paper due to a significant shift to electronic media; therefore, it is a priority to use pulp to produce alternative value-added products, such as thermal insulating materials in buildings. Cellulosic thermal insulation can reduce the heating energy consumption of buildings, and decrease the emission of CO2, thus contributing to a sustainable society.However, cellulosic thermal insulation needs to overcome its poor water resistance, to lower the risk of fungi and ensure a good interior air quality. In the work described in this thesis, cellulosic insulation materials have been produced from pulp fibers, water, and foaming agent by a foam-forming technique. Hydrophobic extractives isolated from birch outer bark were used to functionalize the insulating materials. These materials showed an improved water resistance due to the intrinsic non-polarity of the extractives, promising thermal insulation properties and fungal resistance.Fire retardancy is another challenge for cellulosic thermal insulation, and cellulosic insulation materials were here prepared from formulations containing pulp and commercial fire retardants. Fire test results showed that the materials containing 20% expandable graphite or 25% synergetic fire retardant had a significantly improved fire retardancy, being able to resist a small flame attack for a short period without substantial flame spreading. A study of the mechanism of fire retardancy confirmed that the fire retardants can catalyze the dehydration of pulp and promote the generation of a protective char layer that prevents the materials from further decomposition.Bio-based fire-retardant coatings such as sulfonated kraft lignin and nanoclay can provide a more efficient fire-retardant protection on the cellulosic insulation than a fire retardant incorporated in the materials. A nanoclay coating performed the best because of its very good thermal stability. The effective bio-based fire-retardant coating is promising for future use in cellulosic thermal insulation materials.

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