Scientists at the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) are using agricultural waste to create a new material that could prevent leakage of energy from building insulators, while making the nation clean and green.
As the UAE seeks ways to reduce its energy consumption – per capita rates of which are among the highest in the world – the university’s College of Engineering has developed a composite form of insulation that aims to help the construction industry become more energy-efficient and eco-friendly.
Made from a blend of unsaturated polyester liquid with date-pits powder, the material, which has now received patent approval, is simple and inexpensive to create, and the team behind it hopes that it can help cut the harmful emissions and pollutants in the UAE environment.
"In the UAE, there is an ongoing search for alternative means and materials that preserve and minimise the loss of energy in buildings," explained Dr Basim Abu-Jdayil, Professor in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, UAEU, who is leading the project.
"Heat insulators, which are part of building materials and some industrial hardware, are steadily increasing in importance as a way of saving energy. However, those currently available are expensive and sparingly used.
"In addition to this, materials typically used for insulation, such as polyurethane, polystyrene, and mineral wool, suffer from low mechanical properties that limit their use in the construction process. This means there is the need for an insulating material that possesses excellent mechanical and physical properties in terms of saving energy, preventing water leakage, ease of handling, and which can be used extensively," he said.
The material created at UAEU underwent a range of mechanical, physical, and thermal tests, so scientists could finalise a formula that would provide the best insulation.
It gives waste a new and valuable use while having the potential, versatility and affordability that will allow it to be utilised more widely across the construction sector than the current alternatives, Dr Abu-Jdayil noted.
"It can be produced in different forms, such as sheets, boards, and blocks, which is another reason why we hope it will be attractive to the construction industry," he said.
"We expect this research to benefit the UAE’s citizens and construction companies through its capacity to minimise energy loss and significantly reduce the amount of polymer materials used in commercial heat insulators, which will impact the environment positively by contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions."