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The industrial doctorate student of the Riga Technical University (RTU) Faculty of Civil Engineering Pauls Ārgalis develops an innovative construction material using timber production waste to be used in building insulation. The impulse for the research originates from company «Cewood» — the only manufacturer of wood wool panels in the Baltic states.
«Wood wool panels are a material of natural origin that is good for the environment and friendly to human health. As we were looking for ways of making the production process even more sustainable, we considered the options to dispose our production waste, substandard grade panels or panels already removed from objects, by integrating them in another material,» tells the Board member of «Cewood» Ingars Ūdris. The company has been rapidly developing — since its establishment in 2015, it has become not only one of the largest employers in the municipality of Alūksne, but also the only manufacturer of fibrolite panels in the Baltic states. At the moment, a new plant is under construction to increase production capacity and substantially improve zero-waste production as the company continues growing.
«Waste resulting from wood wool panel production has added value because it contains fragments of wood and cement. In recycling it, we are creating an innovative binding material. By combining the binding material with wood wool, we obtain a material with heat insulation properties for filling in partition walls,» explains the industrial doctorate student P. Ārgalis. He points out that the material has good heat conducting qualities, and it is more environmentally friend in building insulation than the widely used polystyrene foam. Reuse of cement reduces the amount of construction waste and its adverse environmental impact.
To validate the technology and test the new material under real conditions, a garden house was built and insulated this summer. It is fitted with sensors measuring temperature, relative humidity, and the heat flow. The data allow researchers to keep track of the material properties and behaviour in real-time and to adjust its contents and filling methods as needed. P. Ārgalis continues testing and developing the material in a lab, analysing its heat flow, heat conductivity factor, density, tensile and pressure strength. These characteristics are essential to justify the use of this material in the industry.
«Co-operation with «Cewood» is already a second industrial doctoral student’s project at the Institute of Materials and Structures of the Faculty of Civil Engineering of RTU. We are very pleased with the productive co-operation between the industry and the university, as we address issues relevant for the industry,» explains the leading researcher of the Institute of Materials and Structures of the Faculty of Civil Engineering of RTU Māris Šinka.
P. Ārgalis is the fourth industrial doctoral student at RTU. The program of industrial doctoral studies is an initiative of co-operation between science and businesses fostering innovations for the economy of Latvia. By developing closer co-operation, industry representatives become involved in research, and doctoral students prepare doctoral theses for business innovation needs.