I was surprised when I found the following in the Lancet, a medical magazine. It states that: ” The Working Group classified styrene in Group 2A, “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on limited evidence in humans and sufficient evidence in experimental animals for carcinogenicity.” This is a new classification since March 2018 because the older one gives a less dramatic one.
Like described in this recent paper and this older paper, styrene is used to produce polystyrene and the latter one is foamed to expanded (EPS) or extruded (XPS) polystyrene. I don´t believe that XPS or EPS or cancerogenic during the use as thermal insulation but disposal is not straightforward.
Indeed, the landfill method is not a good method because these products are reduced spontaneously to small particles, which are not biogredable and end up in all kind of organisms and also later on in humans. Combustion has to be done above 1000°C to avoid all kind of flue gases while standard incinerators are working at 850°C.
For that reason, a lot of American cities have already banned the use of polytsyrene for the following reasons:
- It does not biodegrade. It may break into small pieces, even minuscule pieces. But the smaller EPS gets, the harder it is to clean up.
- It is made of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals. Those chemicals may leach if they come in contact with hot, greasy or acidic food. Yes, they keep your coffee hot – but they may also add an unwanted dose of toxins to your drink.
- Animals sometimes eat it. Turtles and fish seem to mistake EPS for food, and that can kill them. Not only can they not digest it, but the foam could be full of poisons that it has absorbed from contaminants floating in the water.
- It can’t be recycled. Some commercial mailing houses may accept packing peanuts, but for the most part community recycling centers do not accept throwaway foam food containers
To me it is clear. EPS and XPS are not needed in the building industry and can be replaced by cellular glass. GLAPOR cellular glass is in that case the most ecologic alternative.
Radon is a natural radioactive gas that causes cancer when it is present in the lungs. In regions with a lot of Uranium and Thorium in the soil, this Radon gas is present in higher concentrations. When accumulated in a building, a real health problem is present being the second cause of lung cancer. The situation in Europe is shown in the following picture. Everything more tha yellow deserves measures against radiation.
The American government educates its citizen how to build houses to avoid Radon accumulation like shown in this leaflet. The standard method is to use a ventilated space under the floor.
The need of this ventilated space is clear if cellular glass is not taken into account. A German paper of Keller shows how Radon diffuison is measured in building materials and gives a tabel (see hereunder) with the diffusion length for Radon. This is the length Radon diffuses before it decays with harmfull radiation. A Radon barrier should have a thickness three times this diffusion length to withstand 95% of the Radon.
It is clear that a concrete beam of 200mm thickness is on the limit and that for polymer materials the joints are uppermost important. Indeed, not using a ventilated space under these systems is a risk.
But like already mentionned in a previous post, cellular glass boards are a perfect light barrier against radon. A compact layer of cellular glass boards in bitumen is a perfect screen (100 mm cellular glass is 100 times the diffusion limit of Radon) serving also as thermal insulation and avoiding expensive radon ventilation systems. The bitumen joints are the only risk but using large GLAPOR cellular glass boards 280 x 120 cm reduces this risk for radon leaks with a factor 12 compared with 59.9 x 44.9 cm boards.
On top of that, if for passive housing these GLAPOR boards are installed on a thick layer of (implicit ventilated) GLAPOR cellular glass gravel with the RDS system, even the presence of negligible concentrations of Radon in the house is eliminated and a passive housing standard thermal insulation is installed under the floor at a very good price.
Prof. Elena Yatsenko has a chair at the Platov South-Russian State Polytechnic University (NPI) in Russia. While the universities of Aalborg, Ljubljana and St. Petersburg are recycling glass, prof. Yatsenko is converting slag into cellular glass.
I found the following publications:
Today, most of the recycled glass is used for the standard glass industry and a minor part, which cannot be recycled for bottles and windows is today used for cellular glass. However, reusing slag waste for cellular glass is a new step in the recycling industry. Today, slag is used in the cement industry and also slag wool can be produced for thermal insulation. But it seems that a new future, namely cellular slag is arriving. Indeed, glass powder for foaming should be at least 10 times more expensive than slag powder.
Konrad Fisher was an herectic against outside thermal insulation on walls with a rendering. According to him, all thermal insulation except (closed cells) cellular glass develops mold and other problems in the rendering, which make look the rendering dirty. The rendering has to be cleaned regularly or to be treated by harmfull and expensive fungicides. Bot operations have a large cost.
In his opinion, cellular glass, due to his closed cell structure is a much better alternative, which does not become wet and will not induce mold on the rendering. He explains everything in a YouTube movie, however in German.
He also mentions the price of cellular glass but he is clearly not aware of the new generation cellular glass from GLAPOR at 250€/m³. In this case, maintenance of the will be much lower, generating a payback for the cellular glass.
Above, you observe a dirty rendering due to mold and on the right the solution according to Konrad Fisher with cellular glass in his hands. These pictures can be found in the YouTube movie.
In 1969, a world famous movie was produced by Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey. This link on You Tube shows a part of the movie. I give one frame hereunder:
It is clear that Stanley Kubrick predicts the large monolitic GLAPOR cellular glass boards as the future material (Monoliths) to generate a new evolution step.
In Arthur C. Clarke‘s Space Odyssey, Monoliths are machines built by an unseen extraterrestrial species. In the series of novels (and the films based on these), three Monoliths are discovered in the solar system by humans. The response of the characters to their discovery drives the plot of the series. It also influences the fictional history of the series, particularly by encouraging humankind to progress with technological development and space travel.
Indeed today, GLAPOR cellular glass is participating for a future ecological world.
It is already mentioned in this blog that large cellular boards can be used as thermal insulation and also as construction material, giving the stability of the wall. Especially in the passive housing market, this can be important. Today, we have two examples in Europe, where people on their own initiative started to use cellular glass as stability element and thermal insulation.
In this system, cellular glass is used in combination with brick slices by Clean Tech Block.
A passive housing U-value can be reached with normal wall thickness (< 400mm) and cellular glass, directly foamed from recycled glass. In the following system, cellular glass is used in combination with wood by Tebit Oy, Finland.
It is clear that the future is great for not expensive large boards cellular glass like today produced by GLAPOR cellular glass.
BELGLAS is still convinced that there is a market for open cell cellular glass. Acoustic absorption is one application, hydroculture a second like already demonstrated in a post about Growstone.
At GLAPOR, some possibities with open cell cellular glass boards were investigated …
I guess we eat today the first GLAPOR tomato …. The cellular glass perfectly controls the the stability of the root and the water and mineral content the plant gets to absorb …
Flat solar collectors to heat water have still a large future with an efficiency up to 85% compared with photovoltaic, which is still only 15%. A typical solar collector consists of a glass pane, which allows transmission with minimum refelection of sun radiation on fluid cooled heat exchanger, which is thermally insulated at the backside. This insulation will be mineral because temperatures above the glass temperature of polystyrene (90°C) or another polymer can be expected.
Cellular glass as thermal insulation was out of the question due to price and dimensions. Indeed, 0.60 x 0.45m boards for solar collectors of 2m x 1m are difficult to use. In the picture, the heat exchanger tube is put on mineral wool in an Al casing for only 245€ VAT included. The efficiency of this cheap solar collector is 75% (cold fluid at entrance) and without fluid flow, the temperature may become up to 208°C. With water, we could attain a pressure of 20 bar in that case, which means we need for example ethyleen glycol (EG) or propyleen glycol (PG) as safe liquid. They have a high boiling point (EG=197°C; PG=188°C) and low freezing point (EG=-12.9°C; PG=-59°C). With a fluid flow rate of 100l/hour, we have a pressure drop of 50 mbar.
For that reason, we could consider to replace the mineral wool with meander tube by a large GLAPOR cellular glass board with the meander channel, milled directly into the cellular glass. The glass cover (eventual a double pane) closes the channel at the top. In this case, the radiation is absorbed directly into the water reducing the temperature gradient between solar radiation aborber and water. This means that the water will be warmer in winter reducing the need for extra heating.
However, this idea is not new. Patent DE102014007805A1 from end 2015 describes exactly the above.
However, an earlier PatentanmeldungWO2012093062A2 (2011) describes also such a system based on foamed glass from recycling glass.
This patent was based on research, sponsord by the German government and performed at the Univerity of Freiberg. This is the second time we met this university in the cellular glass world. It was first with vacuum cellular glass and now with a solar collector.
A solar collector based on large cellular glass boards with the above structure should be much cheaper than the standard equipment, which is today used with a higher efficiency. Cellular glass is heat absorber, thermal insulation and casing at the same time. The difficult problem will be the connection of these cellular glass channels to metal tubes to be able to connect the solar collector on the system. But this problem can be solved with one of the many adhesives on the market. The major problem, the avialability of large cellular glass boards 2.8 x 1.2m is already solved by GLAPOR cellular glass.
This topic is maybe not the most challenging, but it is very important. According to the Swiss ECO-scarcity method (UBP), the transport of raw materials and cellular glass is responsible for 20 % of the total damage to the environment due to production, transport and installation of the cellular glass. In other words, 20% of the UBP is caused by transport. It is clear that efficient packing becomes very important.
Forty years back, 40mm cellular glass boards were the standard while today 140mm is the most popular thickness. Transporting 40 mm boards horizontally is a risky operation while this seems logic for 140mm boards. As a consequence, the cellular glass world started to transport vertically. The internal trailer height is maximum 3m with 2.45m internal width to be used with exchangeable EUR-pallets or thinner single use versions. A typical trailer has a floor for 33 pallets, which can be double stapled in the case of cellular glass.
In case of vertical stacking, the boards have a width of 450mm (height when stacked) and 600 mm length (half pallet length). Six parcels have than a total height of 2.70m which should become 2, 984m theoretical total height with two EUR-pallets (144mm height) to be installed in trucks with internal height between 2.85 and 3m. This is not possible and for that reason thinner and weaker pallets are used for this application to gain about 10 cm tolerance. However, these pallets cannot be exchanged because they are not designed to carry 1500 kg. In case of horizontal stacking, exchangeable EUR-pallets can be used because height is not critical anymore. Two pallets stacked have to respect a 2.80 m limit to allow loading the trailer. This means that a trailer can be maximally loaded with 79m³ cellular glass.
In case of vertical transport, the pallets have a fixed height with thinner pallets and I assume that slightly more cellular glass can be loaded, improving the UBP-score due to transport with I guess 4%. But using single use pallets instead of exchangeable EUR-pallets is responsible for an increase of 3.5% UBP. On the other hand, a width of 450 mm (vertical transport) instead of 800mm induces more joints after installation and so a decreased thermal resistance. Joints between 0.6 x 0.45m boards are responsible for 5% heat leak , which means that 0.8 x 0.6m boards should leak 3% in the joints.
At the end, vertically stacked or horizontally stacked boards are nearly equivalent if we speak about ecology. The choice depends on the requested dimensions and it looks that larger dimensions (thickness and length) are becoming more popular. Therefore, I guess that horizontal transport with EUR-pallets will be the future on the condition that the EUR-pallets are not covered by hot bitumen on the roof.
ECOINVENT is a database which contains for many products production data which are important for the environment like the use of primary energy, raw materials, etc. This means that during development of a new product which is based on other products, the developer is able to obtain all data of the products he is using for his invention.
For example, if somebody is using celllular glass besides other materials for the construction of a house, ECOINVENT allows to calculate how much the environment suffered from this construction.
BELGLAS could obtain the public report about building materials, which is used to generate the ECOINVENT database. Although public, this report could not be found by Google and for that reason, it is included in this post.
On page 456, a very detailed description is given about the production of cellular glass based on a special glass composition. All used raw materials are listed together with their function in the process.
The report mentions the following:
- Electric melting furnace with molydenum electrodes at 1250°C
- Grinding with corondum cylinders
- Steel moulds coated with clay and aluminum hydroxide
- The use of 10 kg one way pallets instead of 22kg EURO-pallet
In a following post, we will calculate the production cost of cellular glass with the numbers of this ECOINVENT report.