A Screening Approach to the Safe-and-Sustainable-by-Design Development of Advanced Insulation Materials

Veronica Di Battista, Carla Ribalta, Klaus Vilsmeier, Dilpreet Singh, Philip Demokritou, Eva Günther, Keld Alstrup Jensen, Susan Dekkers, Veronique Adam, Wendel Wohlleben*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Herein, a Safe-and-Sustainable-by-Design (SSbD) screening strategy on four different inorganic aerogel mats and two conventional mineral wools for ranking purposes is demonstrated. Given that they do not consist of particles, the release is first simulated, addressing three occupational exposure scenarios, realistic for their intended use as building insulators. No exposure to consumers nor to the environment is foreseen in the use phase, however, aerosols may be released during mat installation, posing an inhalation risk for workers. All four aerogel mats release more respirable dust than the benchmark materials and 60% thereof deposits in the alveolar region according to modelling tools. The collected aerogel dust allows for subsequent screening of hazard implications via two abiotic assays: 1) surface reactivity in human blood serum; 2) biodissolution kinetics in lung simulant fluids. Both aerogels and conventional insulators show similar surface reactivity. Differences in biodissolution are influenced by the specifically designed organic and inorganic structural modifications. Aerogel mats are better-performing insulators (2-fold lower thermal conductivity than the benchmark) However, this work demonstrates how investment decisions can be balanced with safety and sustainability aspects. Concepts of analogy and similarity thus support easily accessible methods to companies for safe and economically viable innovation with advanced materials.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2311155
Number of pages16
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Aerogels
  • Aerosols
  • Designs
  • Hazards
  • Insulations
  • Occupational exposures
  • Safety


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