Doctoral student Isaac Benito Gonzalez from IATA-CSIC, Valencia, Spain (Instituto de Agroquímica y Tecnología de Alimentos, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) visited Aalto University via the FinnCERES GoGlobal Programme. Prof. Jaana Vapaavuori, a FinnCERES Theme Champion in the field of Energy, Optics and Energy Applications, invited Isaac for a three-month research project to investigate the potential of bio-based aerogels obtained from waste biomass streams for advanced applications.
Cellulosic aerogels (extremely light and porous materials with >96% air) have been explored as potential acoustic insulators due to their interesting microstructure. During Isaac's visit, two Finnish local waste biomass streams (spent barley grains and kale stems) were valorized to obtain cellulose nanocrystals, which were used to prepare aerogels. These materials were compared with aerogels from marine seaweed waste biomass from Spain (Posidonia oceanica dead leaves). Interestingly, the sound absorption performance of all studied biomasses was comparable to commercially utilized materials like rockwool. The results highlight the potential of renewable raw materials and circular bioeconomy principles to create sustainable, well-performing material solutions.