Around eight billion square meters of plasterboard are used annually in building services engineering. The trend has been growing for years: plasterboard is a crucial building material. Why? Its simple, energy-saving design, superb surface quality – ideal for walls and ceilings – and air-conditioning properties. The 2008 Löhn Award has been bestowed on a project which developed a new type of plasterboard shielding against electromagnetic radiation (EM).
The use of plasterboard in radiant heating systems is limited by its very low heat conductivity and lack of EM shielding. In partnership with SGL Technologies in Meitingen, Germany, and Saint-Gobain Rigips in Bodenwerder, Germany, the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Plastics and Composites Technology in Naila, Germany, has developed a new generation of plasterboard which marks an international milestone in heat conductivity and EM shielding.
The three partner firms arrived at these improved properties by combining two materials known for over 100 years: graphite and gypsum. Over a three-year development period, the Steinbeis-led team discovered how to combine natural, anthracite-colored graphite from the SGL Carbon Group with white gypsum from Saint-Gobain Rigips. The result: plasterboard with a unique black and white graphite-gypsum core and highly unusual properties, without compromising on all the advantages of conventional plasterboard.
At around 0.52 W/mK, the heat conductivity of the new plasterboard is similar to water. EM shielding efficiency is around 60 dB, depending on the wavelength of the radiation. This reduces EM waves to a millionth of their original strength. The plasterboard is also extremely energy efficient thanks to its high heat conductivity – allowing it, unlike other types of gypsum plasterboard, to be used in buildings with all kinds of heating systems. For instance, when laying copper or plastic meander-shaped windings, pipe distances can be up to 35 per cent greater with this new plasterboard than with boards – with the same performance per unit area and equal isothermal heating and cooling. This eradicates the problems associated with secondary energy sources such as geothermal and solar thermal energy.
The high level of EM shielding makes it possible to build low EM homes and workspaces, as required in schools, nurseries, public buildings, and research centers. Users can effectively protect their homes – especially living areas and bedrooms – against EM exposure.
The new plasterboard with added graphite lowers energy costs for end users – and significantly reduces EM levels.