Abu Dhabi: A team of scientists at UAE University (UAEU) has developed a new type of material from agricultural waste that can be used as building insulators, with the project offering a new viable way of providing cleaner means of saving energy.

“In the UAE, we have to deal with very hot weather and as a result of this, we need to use some kind of insulation material to handle the temperatures. So our project idea is to utilise the agricultural waste that we have to produce a new type of material that can act as building insulators,” said Dr Basim Abu Jdayil, who is heading the project.

“The material that is currently being used to make the insulators comes from polymer, and polymer comes from crude oil, so this means that a lot of energy and costs are required to produce the insulation material in the buildings.

“On the other hand, making the insulation material from the agriculture waste is more cost effective, requires less energy to make, and is also environmentally friendly,” he added.

Dr Jdayil explained that the agriculture waste that is used comes from date palms, and is then mixed with the polymer material.

“At present, the insulator material that we have made is a mix of polymer and the agriculture waste, so what we do is prepare the agriculture waste in a certain form, and then combine it with the polymer materials before solidifying it. Our main goal is to achieve a 100 per cent green insulator, at present it is around 50 per cent which is still very positive,” he said.

Dr Jdayil added that the new material is just as competent as the conventional ones and also has its own advantages.

“Materials typically used for insulation — such as polyurethane, polystyrene, and mineral wool — suffer from low mechanical properties that limit their use in the construction process. That means there is a necessity for an insulating material that possesses excellent mechanical and physical properties in terms of saving energy, preventing water leakage, and ease of handling and machining, and that can be extensively used,” he said.

Dr Jdayil added that the project was started in 2010, with extensive testing being carried out in the university’s laboratories.

“The material created at UAEU has undergone a range of mechanical, physical, and thermal tests in order to finalise a formula that provides the best insulation. It gives waste a new and valuable use while having the potential, versatility, and low cost that will allow it to be utilised more widely across the construction sector than the alternatives currently available.”