Mechanical, thermal, hygroscopic and acoustic properties of bio-aggregates – lime and alkali - activated insulating composite materials: A review of current status and prospects for miscanthus as an innovative resource in the South West of England

Fabrice Ntimugura, Raffaele Vinai, Anna Harper, Pete Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Bio-based building materials are composites of vegetal particles embedded in an organic or mineral matrix. Their multi-scale porous structure confers to them interesting thermal, hygroscopic and acoustic properties. These performance properties have spurred research on these materials as alternative building materials with low embodied energy. This review contains a comprehensive critical analysis of mechanical, thermal, and acoustic properties of bio-based building materials with a particular focus on the interactions of various constituents and manufacturing parameters. Alkali-activated binders are reviewed for their potential use in high strength bio-based composites. A detailed physico-chemical characterisation of the aggregates and compatibility analysis allow a comprehensive understanding of fundamental phenomena affecting mechanical, thermal, and acoustic properties of bio-based building materials. A wide range of biomass materials is available for building composites, and hemp shives remain the most prevalent bio-aggregate. In the context of England, the farming of industrial hemp remains limited, due in part to the long, costly licencing process and the abandonment of processing subsidy as part of the EU common agricultural policy in 2013. On the other hand, Miscanthus (elephant grass) is a perennial, low-energy, and well-established crop in the England which is gaining interest from farmers in the South West region. Its development aligns with actual agricultural, land management and environmental policies with potential to fuel innovative industrial applications. This review performs a critical assessment of the performance of bio-based materials in an attempt to identify potential frameworks and opportunities to develop building insulating materials from miscanthus.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00211
JournalSustainable Materials and Technologies
Early online date15 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Aug 2020


  • Acoustic
  • Bio-based materials
  • Hemp concrete
  • Mechanical
  • Miscanthus
  • Thermal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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