A new generation of high-performance building materials and elements integrating aerogels and textile reinforced cement composites 

Nowadays’ regulations are pushing the construction industry to meet the ambitious global goals of a sustainable society such as energy-saving, reduced CO2‐emission and use of resources, and efficient construction. High-performance construction materials and systems combining mechanical and thermal properties can answer this need. At a mechanical level, Textile Reinforced Cements (TRCs) have shown their high competitiveness to reduce material use and weight compared to traditional building materials such as steel reinforced concrete. To ensure thermal requirements, a promising insulation material is aerogel. Compared to traditional insulation materials (such as PUR/PIR or EPS), it is an incombustible, ultra-insulating and ultra-lightweight material, which can significantly improve the thermal insulation and slenderness of construction elements. While aerogel has been investigated as a pure insulation material, or in the form of a plaster, its potential in structural elements however has not yet been exploited. The aim of this research is to investigate a multi-scale integration of aerogel in construction elements, envisaging applications where the requirements of ultra-performant materials (thermally and mechanically) outweigh the higher material cost. The multi-scale integration will happen at three levels; at the micro-scale, aerogel granulates will be added to cement mixtures to yield thermally insulating mortars with desired mechanical capacity. At the meso-scale, the aerogel mortars will be combined with textile reinforcement to achieve flexural performance. Lastly, at the macro-scale, multi-layer structural elements combining aerogels and TRCs will be researched. To ensure the structural integrity at elevated temperatures, basalt fibres (as an alternative to glass fibres) will be investigated, woven in novel and highly efficient 3D textiles. All investigated developments will be benchmarked against existing materials and elements. 

Funding scheme: FWO-SBO 

People involved: Laurens Snels & Susana García Mayo  

Period: 2022-2026 

Partner: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)