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Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432

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Innovative mineral fiber insulation panels for buildings: Thermal

and acoustic characterization
Elisa Moretti a,⇑, Elisa Belloni a, Fabrizio Agosti b
Department of Engineering, University of Perugia, Via G. Duranti, 93 – 06125 Perugia, Italy
Agosti Nanotherm s.r.l., Via San Giacomo 23, 39055 Laives, BZ, Italy

h i g h l i g h t s g r a p h i c a l a b s t r a c t

 Innovative mineral fiber insulating

panels were developed for building
 The thermal conductivity was in the
0.032–0.034 W/m K range, depending
on the density.
 Very good acoustic behavior was
shown, when compared to
conventional solutions.
 The panel has also good mechanical
resistance and high resistance to fire.
 The solution is suitable for building
refurbishment, due to very low

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Thermal insulation of building envelope plays a key-role in energy saving: a growing interest is focused
Received 7 January 2016 on new materials, such as the recycled and sustainable ones. Innovative mineral fiber insulating panels
Received in revised form 3 February 2016 were developed and investigated as a strategy for building refurbishment. The thermal and acoustic prop-
Accepted 7 February 2016
erties were investigated in order to compare them to conventional solutions. The thermal conductivity
Available online 21 February 2016
was evaluated by means of a Heat Flow meter apparatus: it is in the 0.0310.034 W/(m K) range, depend-
ing on the density. The acoustic absorption coefficient and the Transmission Loss values measured by
means of Kundt’s Tube showed a very good acoustic behavior, when compared to conventional solutions
Mineral fiber panels
Basalt fiber
with similar chemical composition, but worse mechanical resistance, such as rock wool panels. The low
Thermal insulation value of thermal conductivity (0.0312 W/(m K) for a density of 165 kg/m3), together with other charac-
Acoustic characterization teristics such as acoustic insulation improvement, sustainability (very low presence of additives, such
Building refurbishment as resin), mechanical resistance, high resistance to fire, and finally easy application in buildings with very
Thermal insulating materials low thicknesses (927 mm) suggest this solution as a very useful one for building refurbishment, espe-
cially for historical buildings.
Ó 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 075 585 3694; fax: +39 075 585 3697.
E-mail address: (E. Moretti).
0306-2619/Ó 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
422 E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432

1. Introduction reduction of wettability by the application of hydrophobic agents

reduced the rate of degradation of the thermal insulation proper-
As the energy use in building sector is a significant part of the ties: the increasing of the thermal conductivity (k) is about 43%
total world energy consumption, it is important to improve the in normal conditions (from the dried-up state to 80% of relative
energy efficiency of buildings. In this context the concept of zero humidity); thanks to hydrophobic agents the increasing of k is
emission building and passive house has been introduced. In order about 30%.
to achieve the highest thermal insulation resistance, new materials The basalt fibers represent an interesting solution among natu-
and insulating solutions with low thermal conductivity have been ral vegetable fibers. Basalt is a natural material that can be found in
developed [1]. Many Authors studied the thermal performance of volcanic rocks originated from frozen lava [20–22]. It is cheaper
different insulating materials, conventional and non-conventional than carbon fiber thanks to its large availability all over the world,
ones, with natural or synthetic fibers, used for building envelopes especially in Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and China. It is not a new
[2–5]. Walker and Pavia [2] observed that aerogel and Polyisocya- material but its applications are surely innovative in many indus-
nurate boards provide the greatest wall transmittance reductions, trial fields, in particular buildings, constructions and energy effi-
while timber boards, cork, hemp lime, and calcium silicate panels ciency [23–26].
are less efficient. In general, basalt fibers have better tensile strength than glass
In particular, natural and recycled materials are becoming valid fibers, greater failure strain than carbon fibers as well as good
choices in place of traditional synthetic ones: natural fibers as resistance to chemical attack, impact load, and fire. Sim et al.
kenaf, wood, cork, cane, cardboard, sheep wool, etc. are considered [25] investigated the applicability of the basalt fiber as a strength-
effective raw materials for producing insulating panels at a ening material for structural concrete, taking into account durabil-
reduced cost. Other nonconventional products are manufactured ity, mechanical properties, and flexural strengthening. Based on
by using residues of agricultural production and processing indus- the experimental results, they concluded that the basalt fiber
tries [6]. They are becoming increasingly popular thanks to many strengthening could be a good alternative to other fiber reinforced
important advantages: low mass densities, cell structures, low polymers (FRP) as strengthening systems, especially when moder-
thermal conductivity, high sound absorption properties, no harm- ate structural strengthening but high resistance for fire was
ful effects on health, large availability and sustainability (Life Cycle required. Moreover, the prospective of the material in nuclear
Analysis in terms of primary embodied energy and greenhouse gas energy applications was widely investigated. The radiation shield-
emissions for the production of the material) [7–12]. They gener- ing properties of a new proposed building material, a novel
ally have good thermal insulation properties, similarly to tradi- cement–basalt fiber mixture (CBM), was studied by Ipbükera
tional porous materials. Recycled cotton panels, as an example, et al. [26], highlighting a good potential for use in addition to
have density and thermal conductivity very similar to the ones of heavyweight concrete for nuclear energy applications. Neverthe-
expanded and extruded polystyrene (about 0.030–0.037 W/(m K)) less, the applications of basalt fibers in building insulation and
and a high specific heat value (about 1.6 kJ/kg K). Insulating panels refurbishment is not yet properly explored.
made of other materials such as sugar cane and rice have higher The present paper is focused on the development of insulating
thermal conductivities (about 0.0450.055 W/(m K)), but they panels based on a selected and particular basalt fiber as an innova-
are also interesting because of the large availability and the low tive system for high energy efficiency in buildings, used for both
costs [13]. internal and external coatings. The new system was developed
Also the acoustic features should be considered [14]: several by Agosti Nanotherm s.r.l. thanks to the work of a research team:
measurements were carried out on samples of natural fibers by they selected a specific kind of basalt fiber and developed an inno-
Berardi and Iannace [7]. The sound absorption coefficient was mea- vative production cycle in order to fabricate a panel for specific
sured by means of Kundt’s Tube, showing good sound absorption application in buildings, called NobilumÒ panel [27,28].
properties, especially at medium and high frequencies: it is possi- The proposed panel was investigated in terms of thermal and
ble to obtain significant sound absorption coefficients also at low acoustic performance. Thermal conductivity was measured at the
frequencies by increasing the thickness of the panel or by incorpo- Labs of the Agosti Nanotherm Company, whereas normal incidence
rating air. sound absorption coefficient and Transmission Loss were evalu-
Moreover many studies tried to find a correlation between ther- ated at the Acoustics Labs of the University of Perugia [29]. In order
mal resistance and sound insulation [15–18]. Nurzynski [15] to develop a new basalt fiber-based insulating panel for application
demonstrated that it is difficult to find a simple relationship in building refurbishment, different thicknesses and densities were
between acoustic and thermal insulation; some technical solutions considered in the analysis. Based on the experimental results, the
that improve the thermal resistance of a panel can reduce the proposed panels were compared to conventional insulating build-
sound insulation. Massive homogeneous partitions can represent ing solutions (Rock Wool, Glass Wool, Expanded and Extruded
a good acoustic solution (high acoustic insulation properties Polystyrene, etc.) taking into account not only the thermal
thanks to high densities), but in order to obtain good thermal resis- performance, but also considering other important characteristics
tance it is better to have insulating systems with high porosity and such as acoustic insulation, fire resistance, tensile and compressive
incorporated air. In particular in [18] it was observed that the strength, wettability, cost, in situ installation, and eco-
application of thermal insulating linings is effective for the thermal compatibility. Finally the real potentiality of these panels was
and sound insulation (for materials with high dynamic stiffness analyzed in terms of thermal transmittance by supposing the
and internal damping), but in some cases it produces negative application of the materials to different kinds of existing walls.
effects by decreasing the sound insulation in a specific frequency
range. 2. Material and methods
Nevertheless some natural materials have a disadvantage: they
have high wettability due to their open pore structures and they 2.1. Development of basal fiber insulating panels
have to be protected against biological attacks (fungi, parasites,
etc.) and fire (another advantage is the flammability). Zach et al. Basalt is an igneous rock originated from frozen lava (melting
[19] studied the thermal behavior of natural insulating materials temperatures of about 15001700 °C) [20–22]. Considering the
in different humidity conditions. It was observed that the chemical composition, SiO2 and Al2O3 are the main constituents
E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432 423

Table 1 Table 2
Typical composition of standard basalt fibers [21]. Characteristics of basalt fibers used for the panel [28].

Constituent Content (%) Property Value

SiO2 42–56 Density 2.62–2.65 kg/dm3
Al2O3 11–18 Wet content 0.1%
Fe2O3 5–12 Melting point 1355 °C
CaO 7.5–13 Diameter 13 lm
MgO 4–11 Length 60 mm
Na2O <5
TiO2 <5
K2O <5
of resin. The panels were developed for building refurbishment,
used as both internal and external coating: they can be glued to
of the basalt (Table 1). The manufacturing process of basalt fibers is a wall surface and daubed with plasters or paints without
similar to that of glass fibers, but with less energy consumptions reinforcing-mesh.
and no additives. Quarried basalt rock is crushed and then moved
into melting baths in gas-heated furnace at about 1450 °C. The 2.2. Thermal characterization
process is simpler than glass fiber processing, because the basalt
fiber has a less complex composition. Molten basalt flows from fur- The Hot Plate apparatus establishes steady state one-
nace through a platinum–rhodium bushing with holes and the dimensional heat flux through a test specimen between two paral-
fibers can be drawn from the melt under hydrostatic pressure lel plates at constant but different temperatures. Fourier’s law for
[20,21,24]. Basalt fibers have no toxic reaction with air or water heat conduction is used to calculate thermal resistance and ther-
or other chemicals, are non-combustible and explosion proof. mal conductivity. The main equipment used in Nanotherm Labora-
Basalt is a major replacement to the asbestos and it is suitable tory is the Fox 314 HFM apparatus [29,32], which measures the
for applications requiring resistance against high temperatures, steady-state heat transfer through flat materials according to
acid and solvent resistance, durability, mechanical strength, low ASTM Standard C518 [33] and EN ISO 12667 [34]. The sample is
water absorption, etc. In particular, basalt fibers can be used for fire placed between two flat plates controlled to a set constant temper-
protective applications; it is also an eco-compatible material, char- ature (Fig. 2). Thermocouples fixed to the plates measure the tem-
acterized by an easier recyclability when compared to rock or glass perature drop across the specimen and wireless thermal flux
fibers. Basalt fiber combines ecological safety, natural longevity, meters (HFMs) embedded in each plate measure the heat flow
and many other properties, such as mechanical strength and through the specimen. The thermal conductivity can be calculated
thermal insulation. Nowadays, different products are available on by measuring the heat flux (q in W/m2), the temperature difference
the market such as chopped fibers and grids for reinforcement of across the specimen (DT in K), and the thickness of the specimen (s
concrete, bars in place of steel, rovings for pipes, veils, etc. in m), at steady state, as:
[27,28,30,31] (Fig. 1).  
sq W
The new insulating panels studied in the present work were k¼ ð1Þ
developed in cooperation with a Chinese company, which set up
specific spinning and press machines in order to obtain innovative
basalt fiber panels suitable for building applications using a speci- 2.3. Acoustic characterization
fic raw material selected by the Agosti Nanotherm research team.
The panels are composed only of these special basalt fibers (short The sound absorption and transmission properties of materials
fibers, called chopped fibers, Table 2), with a minimum percentage are usually measured by the standard reverberation room method,

Fig. 1. Basalt-based products available on the market: (a) chopped fibers; (b) roving; (c) grids; (d) rebars; (e) the new insulating panels, net, and veil for building
refurbishment [27,28,30,31].
424 E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432

100 mm (large tube) and 29 mm (small tube) respectively for fre-

quencies in the 100–1600 Hz and in the 500–5000 Hz range.
The experimental apparatus in the two configurations is
showed in Fig. 3 (absorption measurements Fig. 3(a) and transmis-
sion loss configuration Fig. 3(b)).
A four microphone transfer function method was used in order
to determine the Transmission Loss of the material (TL); it is a key
quantification of the effectiveness of the acoustical materials insu-
lation properties and it is calculated as:
TL ¼ 10  log ½dB ð4Þ

s: sound transmission coefficient.
TL is determined by a two-load method [39–42]: two consecu-
tive acquisitions are carried out for each sample by modifying the
characteristics of the tube extremity (a reflective and an absorbing
material should be installed). Channels phase displacement errors
are avoided by a calibration procedure.
Three disks for each sample were tested and the mean value of
the absorption coefficient and of the TL were considered. The envi-
ronmental parameters of the laboratory (atmospheric pressure, air
temperature, and relative humidity were measured before starting
each test; the values were used in the measurement elaboration by
the Brüel & Kjær PULSE LabShop.
Fig. 2. Experimental facility for thermal measurements (Heat Flow Meter).

2.4. The investigated samples

but the measurement requires large size of the test samples. There-
fore, the normal sound absorption coefficients of new materials are In order to develop basalt fiber panels for building applications,
often measured also by using an impedance tube, with small sam- different densities were investigated and the production process of
ples (diameter is less than 10 cm), but only the normal incidence the panel was continuously set up and improved in order to
parameters of the material can be obtained. Modified impedance increase thermal and mechanical performance at the same time.
tubes, or four-microphone impedance tube method, were recently Three thicknesses (9 mm, 18 mm and 27 mm) were considered
developed, which are very useful in the preliminary characteriza- for the developed panels, but their densities were not uniform and
tion of new materials or for their comparison [35]. varied in 115200 kg/m3 range: it is really difficult to control the
In the present paper, sound absorption (normal incidence density during the manufacturing process of the panels, especially
absorption coefficient, a) and sound insulation (Transmission Loss, at high thicknesses (1827 mm).
TL) properties of the samples were investigated in a traditional In the first experimental campaign several panels were investi-
impedance tube (Kundt’s Tube, Brüel & Kjær, model 4206; ¼ inch gated, considering different densities of the material (115, 130,
microphones Brüel & Kjær, model 4187). The normal incidence 145, 175, and 200 kg/m3). Subsequently, when the panels were
absorption coefficient was measured in the two-microphone con- enhanced for building application, two new densities were consid-
figuration by means of the transfer function method (combined ered: 167 kg/m3 and 187 kg/m3.
frequency from 100 to 5000 Hz), according to ISO 10534-2 stan- In order to analyze the effect of the weight on the thermal con-
dard [36]. The sound pressures are measured at the same time in ductivity, thermal measurements were carried out taking into
two fixed positions and the transfer function between them is cal- account all the densities, considering 9 mm thickness samples
culated [32,37,38]. The reflection coefficient is given by Eq. (2) and (samples BF9_115, BF9_130, BF9_145, BF9_175, and BF9_200 for
the normal incidence absorption coefficient (a) is obtained as the first experimental campaign; samples BF9_167new and
shown in (3): BF9_187new for the characterization of the new developed pan-
els). Square samples with external dimensions 300  300 mm
H12  HI 2ik0 x1 (dimensions of the experimental apparatus, Fig. 4a) were assem-
r¼ e ð2Þ
HR  H12 bled for thermal measurements.
a ¼ 1  jrj2 ð3Þ For acoustic tests both thickness and density effects were inves-
tigated (samples BF9_145, BF9_175, BF9_200, BF18_ 175, and
where: BF27_200). Cylindrical samples with 29 and 100 mm diameters
H12: measured transfer function between the two fixed micro- were manufactured (Fig. 4b). Six samples for the each type of panel
phone positions; were tested (three for the large tube and three for the small one)
HI: transfer function for the incidence wave; and an average trend was analyzed. Several measurements were
HR: transfer function for the reflected wave; carried out also for the same disk, modifying the position of the
k0: wavenumbers; sample inside the tube.
x1: distance between the top of the sample surface and micro- Finally, in order to compare the acoustic performance with the
phone position 1. one of conventional materials, a panel of rock wool commonly used
in buildings was investigated (RW30), considering the smaller
Two sample sizes are considered both for absorption and trans- thickness (30 mm) available at the moment, similar to the sample
mission loss measurements: cylindrical samples with a diameter of BF27.
E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432 425

Fig. 3. Experimental facility for acoustic measurements: (a) absorption measurements configuration; (b) Transmission Loss configuration.

Fig. 4. The investigated samples for thermal (a) and acoustic (b) characterization.

The characteristics of all the tested samples are reported in density. As expected, the thermal conductivity coefficient of the
Table 3. samples decreases (linear fits) when the density decreases, sug-
gesting that thermal performance should be improved by using
low densities. Nevertheless, panels with a density lower than
3. Experimental results
145 kg/m3 (BF9_115 and BF9_130) could not be considered due
to their low mechanical resistance. In the next experiments, the
3.1. Thermal performance
investigated samples showed better performance, allowing a ther-
mal conductivity equal to 0.0320 W/(m K), considering a density of
Thermal conductivity results of the proposed materials are
187 kg/m3 (BF9_187new), which diminishes to 0.0312 W/(m K) for
reported in Fig. 5. In the first experimental campaign, the values
a density of 167 kg/m3 (BF9_167new).
were in the 0.03050.0345 W/(m K) range, depending on the panel
426 E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432

Table 3 The transmission loss (TL) levels measured with large tube
Description of the samples for thermal and acoustic measurements. (1001700 Hz) are showed in Fig. 7. The values are consistent with
Specimen Total thickness Density the single panel transmission loss theory [39] and are proportional
(mm) (kg/m3) to frequency and to the surface mass density of the samples (kg/
Thermal characterization m2). Furthermore the transmission loss levels of the samples are
Preliminary campaign BF9_115 9 115 in general quite low, due to the low investigated thicknesses. Much
BF9_130 9 130 more effective panels can be obtained by just increasing the sam-
BF9_145 9 145
BF9_175 9 175
ple thickness and density.
BF9_200 9 200
New developed panels BF9_167 new 9 167
BF9_187 new 9 187 4. Discussion and comparison with conventional materials for
Acoustic characterization building refurbishment
Preliminary campaign BF9_145 9 145
BF9_175 9 175 4.1. Comparison with conventional materials
BF9_200 9 200
BF18_175 18 175
BF27_200 27 200
In order to analyze the perspectives for the investigated insulat-
RW30_95 30 95 ing material, with respect to the market conditions and the future
trends, the comparison was focused on the following main groups
of thermal insulating materials: inorganic fibrous materials (such
as glass wool or rock wool), organic foamy materials, such as
3.2. Acoustic performance
expanded and extruded polystyrene (EPS and XPS, respectively)
and polyurethane (PUR), natural fibers (kenaf, cork, wood fibers,
The average normal incidence absorption coefficient (a) trends
etc.). The European market of insulating materials is indeed dom-
(combination of the large and the small tube measurements,
inated by inorganic materials and organic foams, which account
1005000 Hz) are presented in Fig. 6. The obtained values vs. fre-
for 60% and 27% of the market respectively, whereas natural fibers
quency show the typical trend of porous materials: when a porous
and new technology materials (such as aerogel based materials or
material is exposed to sound, the air molecules within the pores of
VIP – Vacuum Insulation Panels) account for less than 13% all
the material vibrate, transforming some energy into heat. At low
together [43,44]. For the comparison, traditional physical proper-
frequencies, energy losses are isothermal and so limited, whereas
ties, which describe the material behavior in terms of density,
at high frequencies, they are adiabatic and generally more signifi-
mechanical strength, thermal insulation, sound absorption, resis-
cant. In fibrous materials, most of the energy is absorbed by scat-
tance to moisture and fire, etc. were considered; moreover, other
tering from the fibers and the consequent vibration of them [7].
properties dealing with public health, like dust and fibers emis-
For all the samples, the measured values of the sound absorp-
sions, bio-persistence, and toxicity were included in the analysis.
tion coefficient were high at medium and high frequencies,
whereas low values were found at low frequencies. In general,
the normal incidence absorption coefficient increases when 4.1.1. Thermal performance
increasing thickness; nevertheless for frequencies higher than The thermal performance of the basalt fiber panels was com-
1600 Hz, BF18 shows higher values than BF27 (Fig. 6). Further- pared to the one of alternative insulating materials, taking into
more, by increasing both thickness and density, the greatest shift account the thermal conductivity. The comparison is shown in
is at low frequencies, according to refs. [41,42]. The graph also Fig. 8: for each material the representative average values and
shows the average normal incidence absorption coefficient of the the typical range were represented, according to references [43–
sample BF9 for the different densities (145, 175 and 200 kg/m3): 45], due to the high variability depending on the specific applica-
the more the density, the more the absorption coefficient. tions and the manufacturers.

Fig. 5. Thermal conductivity of the samples with 9 mm thickness vs. density.

E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432 427

Fig. 6. Normal incidence absorption coefficients (a) of the samples.

Fig. 7. Normal incidence Transmission Loss (TL) of the samples.

Fig. 8. Comparison with insulating material used in buildings in terms of thermal conductivity (typical values at room temperature and range of variation) [43–45].
428 E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432

Basalt fiber based panels showed the best thermal insulation and the results were compared to the basalt fiber panel
performance when compared to the inorganic fibrous (glass or rock BF27_200 (200 kg/m3, 27 mm thickness) (Fig. 9(a) and (b)). A sim-
wool) or natural (kenaf, cork or wood fiber) materials. The insula- ilar trend was found for absorption coefficients (Fig. 9(a)), but the
tion performance are comparable to the ones of lightweight syn- values for rock wool are 0.10.2 higher than basalt fibers for med-
thetic materials such as expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded ium–high frequencies. Nevertheless, Fig. 9(b) shows that the trans-
polystyrene (XPS) or polyurethane (PUR). In order to obtain better mission loss levels of basalt fiber panels are higher at all
performance, new technologies such as VIP or aerogel based mate- frequencies, due to the higher surface mass density.
rials should be considered [46–50].

4.1.3. Other performance

4.1.2. Acoustic performance A comparative evaluation of the performance of common insu-
The majority of materials made of fibers or granules can be con- lating materials, including the investigated ones is reported in
sidered as porous materials with interconnected cavities. These Table 4, taking into account the main physical properties (density,
properties are required to obtain good sound absorption behavior thermal conductivity, water vapor diffusion resistance factor, fire
and to reduce reverberation time at medium–high frequencies or classification, mechanical resistance) and other useful parameters,
to increase sound insulation of walls. Since acoustic properties such as typical thicknesses, acoustic performance, temperature
depend on frequency, direct comparisons cannot be easily per- application range and additives. The properties of a single type of
formed such as for thermal properties. Moreover, the results material vary significantly when considering the specific applica-
reported in refs. [7,8,13,14,29,32,37–39] are not completely com- tion or the manufacture, therefore a range of values for each type
parable, since different parameters and methods were used. There- of material was included [28,43,44,51–58].
fore, a conventional rock wool panel 3 cm thick and 95 kg/m3 In building materials sector, an important parameter to be con-
density was investigated by using the same experimental facility sidered in order to describe the insulating material behavior is the
and methodology described in Section 2 (Material and methods) reaction to fire. Usually, it is evaluated by using the rating system

Fig. 9. Comparison between basalt fiber panel and rock wool panel: (a) absorption coefficient; (b) normal incidence Transmission Loss.
E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432 429

Table 4
Comparison performance between basalt fiber panels and conventional materials [28,43,44,51–58].

Basalt fiber Rock wool Glass wool EPS XPS PUR Wood fiber Cork
Density (kg/m ) 165–187 90–150 13–100 20–50 30–55 30–50 180 65–200
Typical Thicknesses (mm) 9–27 30–200 40–10 20–200 30–160 60–85 10–160 2–12
Thermal conductivity (W/m K) 0.031–0.032 0.033–0.045 0.030–0.045 0.029–0.041 0.025–0.035 0.020–0.027 0.038–0.041 0.037–0.050
Acoustic performance (–) Excellent Excellent Excellent Poor Poor Poor Good Good
Compression stress in correspondence of a 60 70 25 80–200 300 >130 50 85
crushing of 10% (kPa) BS EN 1607:2013
Tensile strength normal to faces (kPa) 350 >10 >10 <150 <150 >50 7.5 200
(BS EN 1607:2013)
Water vapor diffusion resistance factor, 2 1 1 25–200 80–200 50–100 5–10 5–10
l-value (–)
Fire classification (–) (EN 13501-1:2007) A1 A1–A2 A1–A2 B1–B2 B1–B2 B1–B2 E E
Temperature application range (°C) 260 to 700 100 to 750 100 to 500 80 to 80 60 to 75 50 to 120 n.a. n.a.
Additives (7%, resins) >10% 10% n.a. n.a. n.a. Glue Synthetic resins

defined by the technical standard (EN 13501-1:2007), which clas- 120 cm  60 cm [51]) could be easily applied to interior or exterior
sifies the reaction to fire considering several parameters (such as side of walls (Fig. 10(a)): a support structure is necessary for rock
the temperature increase, mass loss rate, heat release and smoke wool panels, whereas fiber basalt panels can be directly glued on
production) giving a rating from E (the worst) to A1 (the best per- the wall, whatever the thickness, due to their higher mechanical
forming, non-combustible). The basalt fiber panels (Table 4) stand resistance; at later stage a final coat (plaster) could be directly
out for their fire resistance properties: they are classified as A1 applied, also using plaster reinforcement and anti-cracking net
material (the temperature application range is very large, from based on basalt fiber (Fig. 10(b) and c).
200 up to 650 °C), whereas other conventional materials have In order to evaluate the in situ performance of the proposed
similar performance (rock and glass wools, depending on the prod- material, different existing buildings were supposed to be refur-
ucts) or worse (such as organic foamy materials, and other natural bished by using the panels: Table 5 shows the thermal transmit-
fibers). tance of different walls, with the internal application of the new
It is important to take into account the typical application thick- insulating panels in the three different thicknesses (9, 18 and
nesses: thanks to the texture of the panels (they are very rigid), the 27 mm, with a final coat of about 12 mm) and their comparison
good thermal properties and the easy installation procedure, the with the application of rock wool. It can be observed that the
basalt fiber panels can be installed in very low thicknesses innovative panels are very effective for a stone wall with a thick-
(927 mm) in comparison with other typical insulating systems ness of about 60 cm (Type 1) (U = 2.14 W/(m2 K)), where by
(see Table 4). applying only 9 mm, the thermal transmittance drops to
In order to evaluate the mechanical behavior of the materials, 1.34 W/(m2 K) (U-red. of about 38%), with a thickness increasing
different tests could be carried out. The tensile strength normal (Ds) of only 1.6%.
to faces can be evaluated as described in BS EN 1607:2013 [59]. Interesting results (U-red. of about 6364%) are obtained for
The tensile strength of the basalt fiber panels is about 350 kPa, the same wall by applying 27 mm of basalt fibers panel or
while the one of a rock wool panel with high density (about 30 mm of rock wool, but the thickness increasing is about
120 kg/m3) is of only 10–20 kPa. Also wood fiber panels have poor 4.84.9%. The same trend should be observed for a brick wall
quality when considering this property (about 7.5 kPa) [51]. and a cavity wall.
Also the compressive strength in compliance with BS EN Nowadays, the cost of the basalt fiber panels varies in 27–30 €/
826:2013 [60] can be measured in correspondence of a crushing m2, considering a thickness of 9 mm, and it is not very different
of 10%: other materials, such as expanded and extruded polystyr- from the cost of rock wool panels with thickness in the 40 
ene (EPS and XPS) and Polyurethane (PUR), are more resistant than 60 mm range. Anyway, the price of the new material is expected
Basalt fiber panels. Nevertheless, the compression resistance of to decrease, thanks to the reduction of the transport costs. The inci-
basalt fiber panels is not so bad (about 60 kPa) in comparison with dence of transport is in fact very important, since the factory is
that of glass wool panels (25 kPa) and it is very similar to the com- located in China, and the target value in the short time is about
pression stress of rock wool and cork (7085 kPa). 16 €/m2, suggesting a feasible spread in the market.
Finally, the proposed panel is also an eco-compatible material: The thermal benefit of the panels application in building refur-
the chemical composition of the natural selected basalt fibers bishment can be observed also by means of in situ infrared ther-
shows a high percentage of alumina and the panel is characterized mography analysis. Two panels with different thicknesses were
by an easier recyclability when compared to rock or glass fibers, applied to a concrete wall (300 mm thick) in a building (Fig. 11):
due to very low presence of additives (resins, about 7%). the panels on the left has a total thickness of 9 mm, the second
one (on the right) is 18 mm thick. Infrared thermography was car-
ried out in winter conditions (indoor air temperature of about
4.2. Application and potential for building refurbishment
20 °C, mean outside temperature of 5 °C). The same emissivity
of the surfaces was considered. The thermogram in Fig. 11 shows
Due to their interesting properties, the innovative basalt fiber
that the mean surface temperature in M1 is about 15.4 °C, in M2
insulation panels could be an effective solution for building refur-
it is 16.7 °C, whereas in M3 (without panel) the value is about
bishment, when compared to traditional materials, such as rock
10.9 °C (M3). An increasing of about 46 °C was obtained, due to
wool and glass wool panels, especially for old buildings or flats.
the application of the mineral panels. The results are confirmed
The main advantage is their possible use in small thickness
also by experimental data (surface temperature probes were
(<3 cm), whereas the thickness of rock wool and glass wool panels
applied, as shown in the pictures).
varies in 3–10 cm range. The panels (the proposed dimensions are
430 E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432

Fig. 10. Example of the panels installation for building refurbishment: (a) NobilumÒ Termopanel; (b) NobiliumÒ ret; (c) NobiliumÒ vel.

Table 5
Thermal transmittance values of different types of conventional wall before and after refurbishment with different insulation materials.

Wall type and description Before After refurbishment

Basalt Fiber panels Rock Wool panels
s TOT (m) U s BF (m) s TOT (m) U U-red. Ds (%) s RW (m) U U-red. Ds (%)
(W/m2 K) (W/m2 K) (%) (W/m2 K) (%)
1 – Stone wall (s = 600 mm), internal and 0.63 2.14 0.009 0.64 1.34 38 1.6 0.03 0.80 63 4.9
external lime plastered (s = 15 mm) 0.018 0.65 0.97 55 3.2
0.027 0.66 0.76 64 4.8
2 – Brick wall (s = 300 mm), internal and 0.32 1.61 0.009 0.33 1.11 31 3.1 0.03 0.71 56 9.5
external lime plastered (s = 15 mm) 0.018 0.34 0.84 48 6.2
0.027 0.35 0.68 58 9.4
3 – Cavity wall (s = 250 mm) (hollow masonry 0.28 1.10 0.009 0.29 0.84 24 3.6 0.03 0.59 43 10.8
blocks 120 mm + 50 mm air gap + hollow 0.018 0.30 0.68 38 7.1
masonry blocks 80 mm), internal and 0.027 0.31 0.57 48 10.7
external lime plastered (s = 15 mm)

Fig. 11. In situ application of the proposed panels: view of the investigated panels (9 mm think on the left, 18 mm think on the right) applied to a concrete wall (with a
thickness of 300 mm) and the infrared Thermography analysis.
E. Moretti et al. / Applied Energy 169 (2016) 421–432 431

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