Insulating BallsTuesday 12th March 2013
Around the shores of the Mediterranean it is common to see little brown balls of seaweed that are regarded as a nuisance. It is in fact the remains of Neptune Grass and may have a future beyond the sea!
The Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology is carrying out a project to convert Neptune Grass, the little balls of seaweed, into insulation, a high quality insulation - it is now commercially available from a German company - NeptuTherm.
Being regarded as a nuisance, renewable and plentiful the dead Neptune Grass seems to be mold resistant, non-flammable (mostly) and will not need any additives to work as an insulator, even as it absorbs water vapor and then releases it without a drop in insulation values.
Not that it was a case of members of the Fraunhofer Institute enjoying a vacation on the Med to collect the balls and then use as insulation. Rolled up as balls taken from the beach they are full of sand, which is not good. They also tend to bunch together and snag on other materials - so plenty of work had to be performed to reach the goal of a renewable, natural insulator.
The Institute discovered that shaking the ‘balls’ mechanically separated the balls and sand and other debris to fall out, and then cutting them up left loose fibers, up to 2 cm (.8 inch) long. A conversion process that uses only a small amount of energy.
The fibers can then be transported and stored easily, then blown or hand packed into cavity walls or attics like traditional insulation. There are currently plans to also form the fibers into a sheet form of insulation. The beauty is that these fibers are claimed to be 20 percent better insulators than much of traditional insulation, with energy values of 2.503 joules per kg kelvin.
So if you are walking bare foot along a Mediterranean beach, do not despise the fuzzy little brown balls of dead Neptune Grass, they may be a lot closer to home in future - or rather closer in your home, keeping you warm or cool.
Tuesday 12th March 2013