The Braunschweig-based Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research - Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut (WKI) has for some time now been working to develop insulation materials that can replace oil-based products for the long term. The development of "wood foam" is an important step in this process and earned the WKI the Greentec Award at the end of 2015. However, the new product still had some way in its development to go, with requirements in terms of fire proofing and damp protection yet to be met. In the latest move, the material experts at the WKI have added a thin layer of concrete with embedded textile fibers to the material. As a result, they have succeeded in reducing the wall thickness of the elements. The "wood foam panels" have been patented and the main question now is who is going to put them to good use - or at least that's how Harald Schwab, head of the quality testing and evaluation department at the WKI, sees things.

There certainly seems to be a great deal of interest in solutions like these. What’s more, this potential is also reflected in new research projects on alternative insulation materials, which the FNR (Agency for Renewable Raw Materials) is promoting on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. A total of 12 research institutions, thirteen industry partners and three associations have joined forces in “NawaRo-Dämmstoffe”, a network that is seeking to develop insulation materials made from renewable raw materials. Coordinated by the WKI, the network partners are working to identify material properties that will help make it easier for plant-based materials to get through building approval procedures. The FNR has already identified one problem in particular: “Renewable insulation materials don’t have any big associations fighting their corner,” explains René Görnhardt, an expert for sustainable building at the FNR. “And not every manufacturer can afford the costly and complex investigations that the environmental product declaration requires.”