Moisture dependent thermal properties of hydrophilic mineral wool: application of the effective media theory

Iñigo Antepara


Thermal properties of mineral wool based materials appear to be of particular importance for their practical applications because the majority of them is used in the form of thermal insulation boards. Every catalogue list of any material producer of mineral wool contains thermal conductivity, sometimes also specific heat capacity, but they give only single characteristic values for dry state of material mostly. Exposure to outside climate or any other environment containing moisture can negatively affect the thermal insulation properties of mineral wool. Nevertheless, the mineral wool materials due to their climatic loading and their environmental exposure contain moisture that can negatively affect their thermal insulation properties. Because the presence of water in mineral wool material is undesirable for the majority of applications, many products are provided with hydrophobic substances. Hydrophilic additives are seldom used in mineral wool products. However, this kind of materials has a good potential for application for instance in interior thermal insulation systems, masonry desalination, green roofs, etc. For these materials, certain moisture content must be estimated and thus their thermal properties will be different than for the dry state. On this account, moisture dependent thermal properties of hydrophilic mineral wool (HMW) are studied in a wide range of moisture content using a pulse technique. The experimentally determined thermal conductivity data is analysed using several homogenization formulas based on the effective media theory. In terms of homogenization, a porous material is considered as a mixture of two or three phases. In case of dry state, material consists from solid and gaseous phase. When moistened, liquid phase is also present. Mineral wool consists of the solid phase represented by basalt fibers, the liquid phase by water and the gaseous phase by air. At first, the homogenization techniques are applied for the calculation of solid matrix thermal conductivity. Subsequently, the thermal conductivity dependence on moisture content is evaluated by means of several mixing formulas. To verify the obtained results, Wiener’s and Hashin-Shtrikman’s bounds are used. The results show that the application of homogenization techniques can provide useful estimates of measured data and can be successfully used for much less time consuming thermal conductivity evaluation even for the highly inhomogeneous fibrous material such as mineral wool. The data on thermal properties can find use in building practice, especially in the design of thermal insulation building envelopes.



hydrophilic mineral wool, moisture content, thermal conductivity, specific heat capacity, homogenization techniques

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