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Empa and isofloc develop fireproofing made of recycled paper

The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) has teamed up with isofloc AG to find a binder that enables recycled paper to be transformed into fireproof insulation. The new material will hit the market in around a year’s time.

Empa scientists Franziska Grüneberger and Willi Senn
Empa scientists Franziska Grüneberger and Willi Senn. Image credit: Empa

A suitable binding agent was the secret to successfully developing fireproof insulation from recycled paper, the Empa revealed in a press release. The objective was to enable recycled paper fibres to be blown into the cavities of building components, which meant they needed to remain flexible. However, once the fibres are in the cavity and this is filled completely, they should keep their shape to protect the construction in case of a fire. A suitable binding agent has now been found that makes this possible. The Empa teamed up with isofloc AG from the St.GallenBodenseeArea for this project. Empa scientist Dr Franziska Grüneberger on the collaboration: “Together with Willi Senn, isofloc’s development engineer, we launched a series of experiments and combined the insulating fibres with different additives.”

These additives had to meet a range of criteria. The first constraint was that the binding agent must be non-toxic. Second, it needed to be affordable and available in abundance. Finally, it must be effective immediately. Those involved in the project found what they were seeking: a substance from the food industry fulfils all criteria. According to the press release, “lab experiments at Empa and isofloc in Bütschwil also displayed a reliable bond between the cellulose flake structure during a fire”.

Jon-Anton Schmidt, Head of Application Technology at isofloc AG, explains the advantages: “Fitting the insulating material in loose form saves an enormous amount of time. With the additional advantage of dimensional stability and the associated effectiveness for fire safety, we can achieve protection that is on a par with glued mineral wool mats. This makes this ecological and efficient insulation even more interesting for the construction industry.”

The final development step is now taking place at isofloc. It will make a new generation of blow-in machines, with dosage of the binding agent a crucial aspect. The new fireproof insulation is expected to already be launched on the market by isofloc in around one year’s time. “Mountains of waste paper will then be turned into a valuable insulating material that not only helps save vast quantities of fossil fuels during production and use; as the only loose insulating material on the market it can also be used industrially for effective fireproofing” says Empa.

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