By Landen MacDonald, Market Research Analyst
In a world where environmental concerns and climate change are taking center stage, the search for sustainable and renewable materials has become more critical than ever before. One remarkable contender in this quest is the organic fiber derived from the fruit of the Ochroma pyramidale tree, commonly known as the balsa tree. These fibers possess unique properties that make them an excellent choice for thermal insulation, presenting a promising solution for our modern world’s sustainable future.
The Remarkable Properties of Ochroma pyramidale Fibers
Low Thermal Conductivity: One of the standout qualities of Ochroma pyramidale fibers is their remarkably low thermal conductivity. Researchers from Federal University of Amazonas using a thermal conductivity instrument with the MTPS method (figure 3), developed by C-Therm Technologies, was utilized to perform thermal conductivity measurements. This equipment employs the modified transient plane source (MTPS) method to determine the thermal conductivity of the sample. The thermal conductivity values are shown in Table 1. The analysis was realized comparing the IN sample to cotton and EPS, materials already known as traditional insulating, and it was observed that the IN sample presented a lower value than the comparatives, indicating that O. pyramidale microfibers have excellent thermal insulating properties to be mainly explored as substitutes to nonbiodegradable and petroleum-based ones . These fibers excel at reducing heat transfer, thanks to their comparably low density. As a result, they help maintain consistent indoor temperatures, reducing the need for excessive heating or cooling. This not only enhances comfort but also significantly reduces energy consumption.
|Material||Thermal Conductivity (W/m*K)||Reference|
|O. pyramidale fibers||0.036||Current Work|
Low Density: Ochroma pyramidale fibers are incredibly low in density, which not only makes them significantly lighter than other materials but also contributes to the energy efficiency of structures. The low density of the materials is a key factor in helping reduce the thermal conductivity and the O. pyramidale microfibers have very low density, even lower than cotton, a fact that contributes significantly to the insulating property, preventing the air movement, which provides the thermal resistance; thus, less material is needed to produce the same .
Biodegradability: In an era where plastic waste is a pressing concern, Ochroma pyramidale fibers provide a biodegradable alternative. The fruit also has the benefit of being a fiber harvested from the fruit, which makes it an even more sustainable material since it is not necessary to destroy the complete individual and does not require chemical treatment to obtain it  Unlike synthetic insulation materials that can persist in landfills for centuries, these fibers break down naturally, further aligning with sustainability goals.
Applications in the Modern World
Building Insulation: Ochroma pyramidale fibers have the potential to revolutionize the construction industry. By incorporating these fibers into insulation materials, we can improve the energy efficiency of buildings and reduce their environmental footprint.
Automotive and Aerospace Industries: Beyond construction, these fibers have a role to play in the automotive and aerospace sectors. Their lightweight and insulating properties can contribute to more fuel-efficient vehicles and aircraft, which is a significant win for both manufacturers and the environment.
Eco-friendly Packaging: As the world seeks sustainable alternatives to traditional plastics, Ochroma pyramidale fibers can step in as a biodegradable packaging solution. By replacing plastic with these fibers, we can reduce plastic waste and lessen the impact of packaging on the environment.
The use of organic fibers from Ochroma pyramidale fruit as a thermal insulation material represents a significant step toward a more sustainable and eco-friendlier world. With their low thermal conductivity, lightweight nature, and biodegradability, these fibers have the potential to transform various industries, from construction to automotive and packaging. By embracing these sustainable alternatives, we can reduce our reliance on non-renewable materials, mitigate climate change, and contribute to a greener future.
For more information on the testing methods used to gather thermal conductivity data you can read about it here: https://ctherm.com/thermal-conductivity-instruments/trident/
For more information on the benefits of the MTPS method over traditional steady state methods you can read about it here: https://ctherm.com/resources/comparing-thermal-conductivity-methods/
This blog post is part of our Insulations application page.
 Rocha ALF, Feitosa BdA, Carolino AdS, Nunes RZdA, Macalia CMA, da Silva KA, Dias CO, de Souza SM, Campelo PH, Bezerra JdA, et al. Extraction and Modification of Cellulose Microfibers Derived from Biomass of the Amazon Ochroma pyramidale Fruit. Micro. 2023; 3(3):653-670. https://doi.org/10.3390/micro3030046
About the Author
Market Research Analyst
Landen MacDonald is a market research analyst completing a co-op work term at C-Therm Technologies. He is currently in his third year of Chemical Engineering at the University of New Brunswick.