Insulation materials susceptibility to biological degradation agents: molds and subterranean termites

Nunes, L., Duarte, S., Parracha, J.L., Jones, D., Paulmier, I. & Kutnik, M. (2024) Insulation materials susceptibility to biological degradation agents: molds and subterranean termites.

Applied Sciences, 13(20), 11311. DOI:10.3390/app132011311 (IF2023 2,5; Q3 Materials Science, Multidisciplinary)
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  • May, 2024


Insulation materials are fundamental for decreasing energy losses and guaranteeing thermal and acoustic comfort in buildings, which may significantly contribute to decreasing the energy consumption related with poor thermal building conditions. These insulation materials should have a low susceptibility to biological degradation agents to decrease the risks of degradation of other construction materials, as well as decrease possible health risks related with the development of noxious biological degradation agents regarding indoor air quality, for example, or decrease possible structural risks posed by those agents. The present study aimed at evaluating the susceptibility of several insulation materials to mold growth and subterranean termites’ attack. Insulation materials, including expanded polystyrene (EPS), mineral wool (MW), and expanded cork agglomerate (ICB), were tested against mold development, using maritime pine as a control. Three types of inoculations were made: (1) natural indoor inoculation; (2) artificial inoculation using Aspergillus niger and Penicillium funiculosum; and (3) artificial inoculation using Aureobasidium pullulans. The susceptibility of the insulation materials referred to, plus wood/glass fiber (WGF), was evaluated for two subterranean termite species: Reticulitermes grassei and Reticulitermes flavipes. The expanded cork agglomerate showed a higher susceptibility to molds than the other insulation materials tested. The remaining materials revealed a good performance, showing no growth or traces of growth of molds. All the materials tested showed susceptibility to subterranean termites, with both species being able to cross them to obtain access to the wood. However, wood/glass fiber showed a negative effect, which translated into lower survival rates and attack degrees of the wood. Some tested materials showed a good resistance to the development of biological degradation agents, namely an organic material (coconut fiber), a composite of organic and inorganic materials (WGF), and an inorganic material (EPS). These results indicate that it is possible to pursue the development of innovative and effective insulation materials with a low susceptibility to biological degradation agents, regardless of their organic or inorganic origin.