Research database

GAIA - Green cellulose-bAsed fire safe and lightweight Insulating mAterials

24 months (2025)
Principal investigator(s):
Project type:
PNRR – Mission 4
Funding body:
Project identification number:
PoliTo role:


Societal demand towards the concepts of circular bioeconomy is reflected by the need for new sustainable materials produced by green processing routes. In addition, scarce raw materials availability linked to the current geo-political situation has led to a growing interest in the reusing, recycling and upcycling of biomass. Unfortunately, there are no options for a true upcycling of this resource and the current production of biomass waste is increasing year by year (e.g 250 million ton/yr of by-products and waste from food sector). The field of insulating materials represents a potential opportunity for the proper upcycling of biomass waste. Indeed, current state of the art materials show some sustainability and safety issues related to the use of petrol-derived solutions with dangerous flammable characteristics. Ministero dell'Università e della Ricerca MUR - BANDO 2022 PNRR Conventional approaches to solve these problems are aimed at the production of porous material based on natural fiber. Such approach is currently suffering from two major constraints. The poor fiber-fiber interaction does not allow for the production of a self-standing 3D structure and requires the use of polymer binders or thermoplastic synthetic fibers thus considerably limiting the overall fiber content and the sustainability of the resulting material. The intrinsic flammable characteristic of natural fibers, and employed binders, makes them extremely dangerous from the safety point of view. It is thus apparent that the field of green materials is in need for an innovative breakthrough capable of overcoming the limitations of the state of the art and address the development of high performing and easy to upscale materials. The GAIA project addresses this challenge by exploiting the potentialities of a novel approach recently developed by the principal investigator for the production of green biobased lightweight materials from layer-by-layer functionalized natural fibers. Lignocellulosic waste is selected as a source for natural fibers. Electrostatic complexation of bio-based components is used a green approach to material development. These materials will combine high mechanical strength, excellent thermal stability and flame retardancy thanks to the achieved control over the nano and micro structure. Low impact and easy to upscale panel production processes will be developed. The project main objectives are specified as follows: 1. To establish suitable/reliable routes for the extraction of functional natural fibers from lignocellulosic waste 2. To successfully develop fiber surface functionalizations and foaming approaches capable of enabling the production of low-density insulating materials 3. To produce sustainable lightweight materials from functionalized fibers capable of replacing petroleum-based solutions The proposed approach will allow for the production of advanced materials where functional properties such as mechanical properties, flame retardancy and sustainability are optimized.



ERC sectors

PE8_8 - Materials engineering (metals, ceramics, polymers, composites, etc.)

Sustainable Development Goals

Obiettivo 9. Costruire un'infrastruttura resiliente e promuovere l'innovazione ed una industrializzazione equa, responsabile e sostenibile


Total cost: € 299,837.00
Total contribution: € 299,837.00
PoliTo total cost: € 103,169.00
PoliTo contribution: € 103,169.00