Low-cost thermal insulations produced as a byproduct of the sugarcane industry are becoming an affordable means of achieving some measure of thermal comfort in buildings located in developing countries. Environmental concerns about solid waste provide additional motivation for the use of sugarcane fiber as a thermal insulation.
Naturally occurring biodegradable sugarcane fibers fall into the category of large diameter fibrous materials with fiber diameters in the range from 0.198 mm to 0.319 mm. Thermal measurements on loose-fill sugarcane fibers show minimum apparent thermal conductivities at 24°C in the range from 0.0468 W/m.K to 0.0496 W/m.K for specimen densities from 100 kg/m3 to 120 kg/m3. Additional research on fire resistance and susceptibility to insect attack is underway at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad.
Sugarcane fiberboards with densities near 113 kg/m3 were produced using cornstarch as the binder. The structural integrity of the boards was tested using a sag test and a breaking strength test. The thermal properties were tested using ASTM Steady State Thermal Transmission Properties by Means of the Heat Flow Meter (C 518). Comparative sag, breaking strength and thermal tests were conducted on commercially available fiberglass and mineral fiber ceiling tiles. Both structural tests show the fiberboard to be between that of the fiberglass and mineral fiber ceiling tiles. The thermal tests show that the minimum apparent thermal conductivity of the sugarcane fiberboard is within the range normally associated with building thermal insulation.