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  • Periodic Report Summary 2 - BRIMEE (Cost-effective and sustainable Bio-Renewable Indoor Materials with high potential for customisation and creative design in Energy Efficient buildings)

BRIMEE Report Summary

Project ID: 608910
Funded under: FP7-NMP
Country: Italy

Periodic Report Summary 2 - BRIMEE (Cost-effective and sustainable Bio-Renewable Indoor Materials with high potential for customisation and creative design in Energy Efficient buildings)

Project Context and Objectives:
The challenge of today lies in the accomplishment of sustainable and low-energy buildings, which can combine at the same time the thermal insulation properties with healthy, comfortable, accessible and safe indoor environment. Reduction of the energy demand through the use of insulating materials still remains a challenge for European architects and building designers as well as materials producers. Beside good and consistent thermal and acoustic performance overtime, a good and marketable insulation material should in fact be self-extinguishing, not degradable, unshrinkable or non-settling, safe during handling and installation, low cost and should not pollute the indoor building environment, while having a low embodied energy, proven through LCA assessment.

The main aim of the BRIMEE project is therefore to combine the development of better performing insulation materials for improving buildings energy performance and having as final overall objective a significant reduction of buildings operational energy, in combination with the capability not to emit harmful substances and to act as an absorber for indoor pollutants.

The innovation is based on a Nano-Crystalline Cellulose (NCC) based foam, strengthened with natural derived resins, providing mechanical strength, lightweight performances and furthermore self-extinguishing features. Thanks to advanced processing developed and refined within the project, the NCC material can be profitably extracted from the waste streams of the pulp and paper industry, therefore increasing the sustainability of the end product, at no compromise on its performances.

Although the BRIMEE product family is applicable for the envelope and interior partitions of both new and existing buildings, most of the impact and the largest market is represented by buildings built before 1975 and requiring retrofitting. This is considered the initial market to be addressed, in line with EU priorities and recent action plans and directives, and confirming the approach to increase the value of building stock, improving the quality of life for the inhabitants and reducing the overall environmental footprint of the building process. The final aim of the project is therefore to produce panels that can be well acceptable from building designers, architects, and the end users, thanks to their joint active involvement into the project, concurring to the development of a product representing a real marketable solution for the end users.

The project is run thanks to a strategically European-spread consortium, involving the active cooperation of materials scientists, developers and transformers, firms expert in the development of advanced built environment solutions, designers and architects, cooperating together under the coordination of D’Appolonia, with the common goal of developing innovation that can be effectively implemented into real scale, marketable products representing a success solution for the insulation and air quality a European level.

In line with the need, felt by the inhabitants of either new construction or existing buildings, to improve the performances of the thermal and noise insulation, without compromising on the quality of the air, more and more attention is paid to the accomplishment of sustainable and low-energy buildings, which can combine at the same time thermal insulation properties with a healthy, comfortable, accessible and safe indoor environment. Indeed the indoor environment is becoming an issue as in highly sealed energy efficient buildings a number of problems arise such as those related to SBS (Sick Building Syndrome).
Consequently, the path towards future low-energy use, or even energy autonomous or energy-positive buildings, has to be followed without running the risk of introducing a negative impact on human health.

In this context, beside good and consistent thermal and acoustic performance over time, a high performance and marketable insulation material should possess additional features: be self-extinguishing, not degradable, unshrinkable or non-settling, safe during handling and installation, low cost, and should not pollute the indoor building environment, while having a low embodied energy.

The BRIMEE project aims exactly at developing materials that can combine the different benefits of the current state of the art insulation materials, combining the insulation (thermal and noise barrier effects) with a whole bio-based origin, leading to a final material and product that is healthy and effective. In particular, BRIMEE project focuses on the development of a novel class of insulating materials, based on renewable porous framework constituted of a 3D network of nano cellulose reinforced with natural derived resin. The raw materials can be derived from non-food biomasses, wood residuals and slurries from wastewater treatment systems as the intended process is flexible in input. However the preferred source will be pulp&paper industry waste with the final purpose to achieving marketable products and industrial production methods based on advanced nanomaterials derived from renewable resources. Additionally, the expanded materials to be developed are intended as the core of innovative composite panels, in that they have sound structural performances: this witness for an entirely new method of designing the panels, and new types of applications and structural performances that can be demanded, therefore extending the potential for implementation.

More in details, main objective of BRIMEE project is the development of a new generation of insulation materials and products, to improve buildings energy performance without emitting harmful substances and acting as an absorber for indoor pollutants. The material solutions developed within BRIMEE are based on a Nano-Cristalline Cellulose (NCC) based foam, strengthened with a bio-based resins which provides mechanical strength, lightweight performances and furthermore self extinguishing features. Functional characterization to the Cellulose basis is exploited to confer to the material additional functionalities from the bulk, such as fragrance release, water repellence or anti-bacteria, IR radiation reflectance. Thanks to an advanced processing pioneered by our partners, the NCC material can be profitably extracted from the waste streams of the pulp and paper industry, readily available across EU-27 and being today an environmental issue for paper mills.

The key benefits of the BRIMEE product/process can be synthesized in the following:
• Use of renewable materials: NCC extracted from renewable, non food cellulose sources, or profitably extracted from wastes of the paper industry, bonded via natural based resins;
• Functionalization with natural derived compounds, capable of capturing the polluting elements, transforming the bulk of insulating materials from emitters of noxious chemicals into a sink, absorbing them throughout their life cycle;
• Low-temperature process, involving water and a totally closed loop solvent and acid exchange loop, ensuring reduced embedded energy and limited environmental impact. Thanks to the reclamation of waste streams, the overall environmental impact can be considered as positive, accounting limited disposal;
• Graded performances, permitting the complete tailoring of the mechanical, thermal and chemical responses of the materials to the required applications.

Three fully operational components are expected to be delivered at the end of the project, providing convincing demonstration of the applicability of BRIMEE material as panels suitable for:
• Outer insulation, to be applied for the building external envelope;
• Internal insulation, to be applied on the internal surface of the envelope;
• Internal partition panels.

Such differentiated applications and products have to be tailored and designed on purpose having in mind the final use conditions, and the differentiated functionalities to be imparted.

In addition, the project will demonstrate the innovation through two demo buildings located in different climatic zones, Spain and Czech Republic.

Project Results:
BRIMEE project was launched in July 2013. In agreement with the expectations, the activities of the BRIMEE project for the first 36 months have been performed in accordance to the contractual terms, and have seen the collaboration of the different partners in order to achieve the challenging results as expected. The Second Reporting Period constituted the transition period between the RTD activities and the DEMO activities, where the solutions developed within the first two years of the project activities found their practical application. Work Package 1, Work Package 2 and Work Package 3, respectively related to system requirements and creative design, foam material development and process development at laboratory scale had successfully concluded within the First Reporting Period. Within the Second Reporting Period, the three main RTD Work Packages related to the process scaling up, panels design and characterisation have been accomplished. Work Package 4 and Work Package 5, respectively related to the NCC extraction and NCC foam manufacturing processes and panel design, LCA and prototyping, had successfully accomplished their activities. Work Package 6, related to the panel characterisation and performance assessment, has started and achieved most of its due, still more details and additional work needs to be performed in order to deal with the effective performances of the foam materials and the panels in their real operating conditions. In addition, Work Package 7 related to the demonstration activities started.
Main achievements within the different work packages active in the second period (M19 – M36) are summarised in the following list.

• WP4: Process scaling up and manufacturing guidelines. The activities related to follow- up of the laboratory scale processes of NCC extraction and NCC foam manufacturing, developed in WP3, have been successfully performed and completed. Moreover, both pilot plants have been commissioned and their performances tested. The activities in this WP have been run with cooperation with the NCC Foam project (GA 604003). Moreover, a further conceptual design related to a full industrial scale NCC foam manufacturing plant has been developed
• WP5: Panels Design, LCA and Prototyping. The final design of the panel has been developed, thanks to the expertise and innovative ideas generated through joint applications of designers/architects, and partners active in the building industry. The overall environmental and economic impacts assessment has been performed by analysing the processes both at pilot scale and at full industrial scale (based on the conceptual design developed within WP4)
• WP6: Panels characteristics, durability assessment and compliance with standards and regulations. Environmental performances, mechanical and fire reactions have been preliminarily tested. The results provided good compliance with the expectations, in particular with respect to the foam performances in terms of chemical emissions, fire reaction and thermal transmission. Additional trials are needed in order to grant a complete characterization and performance assessment of the material in its final shape
• WP7: Full scale demonstrators, performance monitoring and verification. The preliminary works related to the implementation of the innovative panelling system, developed within WP5, in two full scale demonstrators, have been performed. In particular, two demo sites have been identified in Brno (Czech Republic) and Seville (Spain). One additional, reduced scale demo site, is under discussion to be built in Bergamo (Italy)
• WP8: Business model, exploitation and dissemination. The activities within the work package are aimed to support the effective implementation of the results and to address the aspects of communication and exploitation of the project, supporting the partners into the process of management of the knowledge generated. Activities initiated with the start of the project and covered the three main aspects of IPR management, modelling of the business to be applied and generating awareness towards the exterior of the activities performed and results achieved. The dissemination has been planned for the whole project. Website is constantly updated, serving as a repository and as platform for communication among partners. Partners attended to fairs, with a plan to increase the presence to such events in all the cases where it can create added value. Finally, the Exploitation Plan developed within the First Reporting Period has been updated within the Second Reporting Period, in order to establish and maintain mechanism for effective exploitation, coordinate it and encourage interactions/networking among stakeholders

The overall results and achievements of the BRIMEE project are aligned with the expectations, and according to the 36 Months term, are relevant for the scientific and technological development of the materials and processing, testing of the performances and design indications finalized to the achievement of the relevant functionalities. The following list recaps the main results achieved so far within the project:
• Conceptual Design: the panels are conceptually developed and the ideas on the different types of applications, end use, functionalities (among the ones developed within the project) are assessed. The end applications (flooring, roofing, partitions, internal or external insulation) influence on the features and specifications are addressed, as well as the foam benefits on the overall composite structure
• Panel Design: The panels are developed and the main features of the panel declined on the application are provided. The design is based on modelling and simulation results, as well as on the results of the testing that steer the aimed final performances in use conditions. The design is as well influenced on the expected production capacities, leading to the development of smaller panels, easier to handle and assemble in the end applications, compromising the benefits of larger panels with a higher flexibility and ease of design
• Materials development: the recipe for the foamed NCC core material is deployed and formalized. The production routine implemented, permitting to optimize the microstructure and reducing the energy consumption. The formulation is optimized, to maximize the use of renewable and natural derived materials, achieving at the same time mechanical rigidity and fire resistance. A further action of upscaling has been performed, the materials are currently available foamed in A2 dimensions (40 x 60 cm).
• Processing Development: in parallel with the development of the material, the receipt is formalized and established also for the process steps, the raw materials and the intermediates and processing stuff to achieve the products. The following upscaling steps are performed thanks to the approach, finalized to minimizing the energy expenditure and to confine in a narrow space the dangerous steps involving flammable solvents. Additionally, the overall sustainability is granted thanks to the programme for recovering the solvents or reagents and supporting therefore the generation of an overall sustainable process concept. The design of the upscaled production went in two directions: a pilot line, to demonstrate the batch production of larger (A2) samples, and a longer term, pilot industrial line, oriented to respect the 100 kg/day of NCC foam panels, characterized by a higher level of automation, and elevated costs both for the equipment and the raw materials. Such a system has been conceived and designed, yet the costs for its integration and prototyping lay well beyond the project financial capabilities
• Testing: the material samples have been made available to the laboratories under the specific features and dimensions to permit the validation of the different fields of performances, as required by the project ambitious testing programme. Due to the difficulties in materials availability, the priority has been given to the tests providing a basis to the applicability of the materials in the building sector and the specific requirements as provided by the BRIMEE project. Therefore, materials fire resistance, vapour emissions in air, density and the mechanical performances have been investigated with priority as the basic features. Results have provided useful feedbacks to the materials surface functionalization, and are addressing the question on the methods to improve the final performances at sustainable application methods
• Demonstrators: the relevant expertise of the partners have developed a clear plan for installation and monitoring activities in the two selected demo sites, Brno (Czech Republic) and Seville (Spain). Additional demo site will be implemented at Bergamo (Italy) leveraging on the possibility to deploy more, smaller scale foam samples at the benefit of the validation of performances and the visibility at European level. The issues of materials provisions and primary transformation has been addressed within the course of the Second Reporting Period as well as the aspects of sourcing and costs associated have been taken into due consideration in order to permit the achievement of the ambitious results within the timeframe of the demonstration, permitting as well the testing of the results under real working conditions
• Business Model: the results achieved within the first 36 Months permitted to enable a complete overview of the feasibility of industrial exploitation of the results. In particular, the whole consortium has set up a strategy for developing a business model acting as a single value-chain, leveraging on the key advantages of the innovative materials/products, and working to reduce the limitations so far identified, almost all associated to the costs for the new materials. Partially in resolution of the last issue, also the potential extension of the application field towards different end uses and applications seems to be a suitable route. This in fact is expected to provide clear demonstration of real case application, in solutions where the cost is less an issue and high quality materials play a central role, the volumes associated can stand for reduced costs of the raw materials and the processing, and the advertising expected to generate a natural support to traditional sectors to effect transition towards new solutions

Such technical results are coupled with transversal enabling results, permitting to organize the work in terms of exploitation, in particular assigning responsibilities and methods for exploitation to each of the results deemed valid for exploitation, to address the standards and the typical features and barriers in the built environment, and to control the flows of information towards the dissemination activities, maximising the benefits of the awareness generated in the community of the Energy Efficiency in buildings, at no risks for unwanted leakage of knowledge.

Potential Impact:
The BRIMEE project at the Month 36 is running in accordance to the expectations. Each of the fields of results so far achieved is expecting to generate real impact for the partners, and returns in terms of applied knowledge: materials, products, real implementation and application of the materials under tested operating conditions.

The key aimed result is the demonstration of the industrial feasibility and sustainability of an insulation panel that is not only efficient in terms of thermal and sound barrier capacity, but at the same time can be implemented in the built environment with good acceptance on the end users and at no negative impacts on the indoor air quality. To do so, the activities and the results so far achieved are aligned with the expectations, and cover the main elements for the industrial feasibility, but the most relevant item to be performed, and which is at the centre of the development for the third period is related to the perceived quality, the overall sustainability and the real scale implementation of results.

The final expectation is a panel, nice and appealing for the inhabitants, suitable to be installed in interiors, with a strong natural – renewable basis, and with good characteristics of inertness towards the atmosphere. As ideal project outcome, thanks to the representation of the whole product value chain, the installation of such type of solutions, either in new construction or in refurbishment solutions, can be favoured. The role of the materials scientists, the results of testing and model analytics, as well as the concrete support provided by architects is expected to build a strict relation and strong visibility of the BRIMEE approach towards the construction world.

Impacts expected span from the value generated to the end users and construction companies, up to the innovation acceptance within a sector still led by traditional solutions, and the benefit for the end users in their daily quality of life.

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