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Energy and Buildings 39 (2007) 1027–1034

A simple dynamic measurement technique for comparing thermal

insulation performances of anisotropic building materials
Bulent Yesilata a,*, Paki Turgut b
Harran University, Mechanical Engineering Department, 63300 Sanliurfa, Turkey
Harran University, Civil Engineering Department, 63300 Sanliurfa, Turkey
Received 29 September 2006; received in revised form 28 November 2006; accepted 30 November 2006

Measuring or estimating thermal properties of anisotropic building materials can be key obtaining the optimum performance for a particular
application. The intensive researches on development of new building materials have necessitated in situ thermal testing apparatuses in most
research laboratories. Only few standardized techniques are available for accurate thermal testing of anisotropic materials, and they are generally
expensive. In the present study, common thermal testing methods are reviewed in brief. A simple and inexpensive thermal testing technique is
proposed. The measurement is based on analysis of transient data, which is suitable for comparing effective thermal transmittances of both
isotropic and anisotropic building materials. Sample measurements with ordinary concrete and rubberized concretes are performed. The effective
thermal transmittances of rubberized concretes are found to be considerably lower than that of the ordinary one.
# 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Measurement methods; Thermal properties; Adiabatic-box technique; Anisotropy; Building composites

1. Introduction become very attractive and popular for all types of materials since
they can be used to measure several thermal properties
The measurement of thermal transport properties for a solid simultaneously or separately [8–11].
material is a key issue to attain optimum performance for a The quick development of new and advanced materials for
particular application. Over the years a number of measurement broad ranges of applications has necessitated the introduction
techniques have been developed for this purpose [1]. The earliest of completely new techniques for producing reliable data for
group of measurement techniques is the steady-state techniques. the growing demand. Part of this interest is a search for
The technique is based on establishing a temperature gradient innovative building systems that combine higher efficiency and
over a known thickness of a sample and controlling the heat flow quality in the building process with improved thermal
from one side to the other. Steady-state techniques are primarily resistance. The most important aspects of innovation might
suitable for analyzing materials with low or average thermal be in the development of integrated insulation products [12];
conductivities at moderate temperatures [2]. The transient such as the insulated, reinforced concretes [13], two or three-
(dynamic) techniques measure temperature–time response of the wythe precast sandwich wall panels [14], and rubberized
sample when a signal is sent out to create heat in the body. These concretes [15]. An issue that arises out of this activity is the
methods can be used for measuring thermal diffusivity, thermal need to establish the thermal properties of the alternative
conductivity, or both, for broader range of temperatures and systems and products. Accurate thermal characteristics are
thermal properties [3]. A well-known transient method for required to guide product development and manufacturing.
thermal diffusivity is the Laser Flash [4–7]. A group of new Methods and data exist for dealing with the common building
apparatus known as Contact Transient Methods has recently walls and insulations, but new systems and products are
generally lacking such data. The information, to be generally
useful in the building industry, needs to be in a form that is
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +90 414 3440020x1094; fax: +90 414 3440031.
accurate, easily applied, and versatile enough to span the
E-mail addresses:, typical variations in the building configuration and the
(B. Yesilata). properties of the materials [13].
0378-7788/$ – see front matter # 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1028 B. Yesilata, P. Turgut / Energy and Buildings 39 (2007) 1027–1034

It is often not enough to get approximate data from techniques are summarized in Appendix A and schematically
standard tables since small variations in composition, shown in Fig. 1.
processing parameters and utilization conditions of materials The guarded hot plate apparatus [20] shown in Fig. 1(a)
change the behavior and properties. Anisotropy due to crystal consists of uniformly wound heaters in a central metered section
structure, material type and form and method of fabrication and in a thermally isolated guard area separated by a small co-
can cause large variations in property depending on the heat planar gap. A number of temperature sensors are fitted tightly in
flow direction within the material [16]. Recent parametrical all surfaces at appropriate positions in the central and guard
studies for insulated, reinforced concretes [13] and for three- sections. Measured dc-power is applied to the hot plate and the
wythe precast concretes [14], have successively demonstrated various temperatures in the cold plate and guard sections adjusted
that these structural variables can have significant impacts on and carefully controlled to produce uniform temperatures at the
the thermal performance. Measurements of real samples of specimen surfaces. The zero temperature difference across the
anisotropic building structures are thus necessary to support gap and the desired temperature difference across the specimen
thermal design. As a consequence of the wide ranges of pieces are required to obtain thermal conductivity.
thermal property, a measurement method has to be selected For the heat-flow meter technique [21], a square sample with
depending on the following criteria: possible sample size a well-defined thickness is inserted between two plates as
and shape, temperature range, and thermal conductivity range indicated in Fig. 1(b). The heat flow through the sample is
[2–4]. measured with calibrated heat flow sensors after a fixed
In this paper, we review common steady-state and transient temperature gradient is established. For larger samples and
measurement techniques and introduce a new apparatus higher thermal conductivity ranges guarded heat-flow meters
designed for thermal performance estimation of anisotropic can be used. The measurement principle remains nearly the
building assemblies. same, but the test section is surrounded by a guard heater,
resulting in higher measurement temperatures.
2. Short review of common measurement techniques The hot-box technique [22–24] is normally used measuring
the overall heat transfer through large, inhomogeneous
2.1. Steady-state measurement techniques structures. The overall thermal resistance (R-value), which
includes air film resistances in the cold and warm sides along
The steady-state measurement techniques are based on with heat conduction resistance of the specimen, is obtained
establishing a temperature gradient over a known thickness of a from such measurement. A large specimen is placed between a
sample to control the heat flow from one side to the other. A hot and a cold chamber operating at fixed temperatures, humidity
one-dimensional flow approach has been employed most and air flow conditions. In the guarded hot-box version [22],
frequently, but also other geometrical arrangements are used. shown in Fig. 1(c), a guarded metering box is attached to the
The thermal conductivity is simply determined by measuring central section of the specimen. Temperature sensors are placed
the temperature gradient and the heat flow through the sample at positions approximately opposite those in the specimen to
[17–19]. Most commonly used steady-state measurement obtain the corresponding air temperatures. Testing is performed

Fig. 1. Common steady-state measurement techniques: (a) guarded hot-plate, (b) basic heat flow-meter and (c) guarded hot-box.
B. Yesilata, P. Turgut / Energy and Buildings 39 (2007) 1027–1034 1029

establishing and maintaining a desired steady temperature conductivities and for taking measurements at high temperatures.
difference across a test panel for a period of time so that constant Besides their high precision and broad measuring range, transient
heat flow and steady temperature are ensured. When air methods feature a comparably simple sample preparation and the
temperatures across the metering box wall are maintained the ability to measure up to 2000 8C. Transient methods can be
same, the heat interchange between the metering box and the divided into two categories depending on the apparatus used for
guard box is zero. At this time, the heat flow (dc-power) is measurements: contact and optical techniques.
measured. This is a measure of heat in the metering box through a Contact Transient Methods have become popular and widely
known area of the panel. In the calibrated hot-box version used because of their simplicity in concept and realization [8–
[23,24], the outer walls of the hot chamber are made with very 11]. An appropriately sized rectangular or cylindrical specimen
thick insulation to minimize conduction losses and the power containing an embedded simple geometric form of a low heat
flow through those walls is measured for a range of hot chamber capacity heat source together with one or more combined or
and laboratory temperatures, using the calibration panels. separate temperature sensors is allowed to equilibrate at a given
In addition to experimental measurement techniques temperature [26]. The components of a basic apparatus along
described above, steady-state calculation methods (i.e. ASH- with the structure of heat source are shown in Fig. 2(a). A heat
RAE Handbook methods and the finite element method) are pulse or heat flux in the form of a step-wise function is produced
also used for thermal performance evaluation of complex by an electrical current in the source to generate a dynamic
building structures. The theoretical methods are not described temperature field within the specimen. The temperature change
here, but the brief descriptions of those can be found in [14,25]. with time (temperature response) is measured by a sensor(s)
which is either unified with the heat source or placed a fixed
2.2. Transient (dynamic) measurement techniques distance from the source (temperature functions). The response is
then analyzed in accordance with a model and set of solutions
Transient measuring methods have become established in the developed for the representative set-up and designed for the
last few decades for studying materials with high thermal specific geometry and assumed boundary conditions. Depending

Fig. 2. Schematics of common transient measurement techniques: (a) contact transient and (b) laser flash.
1030 B. Yesilata, P. Turgut / Energy and Buildings 39 (2007) 1027–1034

upon the geometries of the specimen and source, and the method diffusivity is calculated from the temperature versus time curve
of the temperature field generation, one or more thermophysical and the thickness of the sample.
properties can be obtained separately or simultaneously [8]. The
common geometries and modes of heat sources for contact 3. The proposed dynamical measurement technique
transient methods are summarized in Appendix B.
Optical transient techniques require relatively more expen- Most of the techniques described in preceding section have
sive set-ups and are quiet advanced. They cover broad ranges of significant drawbacks for measuring effective thermal proper-
both temperature and thermal conductivity as listed in ties of anisotropic materials. Anisotropy due to crystal
Appendix C. The measurement principle is based on the structure, material type and form and method of fabrication
generation and detection of energy pulse (in Laser Flash can cause large variations in property depending on the heat
technique) or thermal waves (in the others). The thermal flow direction within the material. The sample geometry
diffusivity of a material is directly measured, and therefore one displays thermal variations in two perpendicular directions,
needs to obtain a value for heat capacity from another which must be measured simultaneously. The contact transient
measurement to finally calculate thermal conductivity [6]. techniques, especially the Gustafsson Probe or the Hot Disk,
Naturally, error propagation from the two measurements can have recently been adapted for such a measurement [16]. The
lead to lower accuracy in the final result [1]. The most anisotropic building materials have relatively low effective
frequently used optical transient technique is the laser flash thermal conductivity values; thus, sample size tends to be large
method [4–7], which is schematically shown in Fig. 2(b). The resulting in longer measurement time [27]. The location of
specimen is placed in a furnace and heated to a uniform thermocouples and the quality of contact resistance between the
temperature. A short (1 ms or less) pulse coming from a laser or thermocouple and the sample surface are also serious concerns
a flash lamp irradiates one surface of the specimen. The for obtaining accurate measurement. Finding solutions to these
resulting temperature rise on the rear surface (and/or the front drawbacks are relatively expensive [21].
surface in some cases) is measured either with a fixed A dynamic adiabatic-box technique proposed here is intended
thermocouple or more usually by an IR detector. The thermal to overcome some difficulties mentioned above. It is a secondary

Fig. 3. (a) Schematic of dynamic adiabatic-box apparatus (T: temperature sensor, RH: relative humidity sensor) and (b) dimensions of the adiabatic-box (in cm).
B. Yesilata, P. Turgut / Energy and Buildings 39 (2007) 1027–1034 1031

but simple and inexpensive technique. The technique can be used mens are tested at purely identical hot and cold space conditions
for pre-estimation purpose for materials developed in a [28,29]. Simple analysis of time–temperature curves for the
laboratory before taking absolute measurements with one of specimens allows fair comparison of their effective thermal
the standardized techniques, if necessary. The schematic of the transmittances under specified conditions. The specimens used
apparatus is illustrated in Fig. 3(a). The main component of the for sample measurements are the ordinary concrete and the
apparatus is the adiabatic-box, whose outer and bottom walls are concretes with scrap–rubber. Geometric specifications of the
heavily insulated to minimize heat losses to its surroundings. The specimens are given in Fig. 4. The rubberized concrete
test specimen with much higher thermal conductivity and thinner specimens used here can in principle be considered as fibrous
in size forms the top wall of the box to provide one-dimensional composites and they are anisotropic at macroscopic level. The
axial heat flow. The dimensions of the box are shown in Fig. 3(b). main object in these sample measurements is to investigate
A heater controlled by a thermostat is installed close to the effect of scrap–rubber addition on thermal transmittance of
bottom wall to heat small depth of water to a certain temperature ordinary concrete. The subject is of practical interest in civil
(ranges between 35 and 55 8C). Using water in the box helps to engineering community and there is lack of an appropriate
obtain more homogenous temperature distribution in lateral thermal testing method due to complex structure of rubberized
direction during heating and experiments. The evaporation of concretes (see [15,30] for recent reviews on the subject).
water is prevented due to adjusted low operating temperatures. Ordinary Portland cement (Type I, with density of 305 kg/
The box is placed in a cold chamber operating at controlled fixed m3), natural sand and water were used for preparation of fresh
temperatures, humidity and air flow conditions. Temperature and concrete. The mixture proportions by weight were respectively
relative humidity sensors are positioned at several points to 1:2.75:0.5, and the largest diameter of fine-aggregate was
measure the corresponding air conditions. A highly sensitive 5 mm, well within the corresponding ASTM grading standard.
immersible temperature sensor with internal data-logger is put The density and thickness of scrap–rubber settled into fresh
into water to monitor its temperature. The specimen is tightly concrete were 0.84 g/cm3 and 2 mm respectively. The rubber
installed as soon as water is heated to a desired temperature. The came from a local company which recycles scrap automobile
heater is then turned off and transient data recording starts at this tires into a sheet form. Strip and circular rubbers at desired
time (t = 0). Cooling rate of water can be considered a measure of dimensions were obtained by using a cutting and punch
specimen thermal transmittance since major part of the heat is machines, respectively. Rubbers are settled into and lined up
transferred through the specimen surface. The analysis of time– center surface of fresh concrete before pouring the rest of it to
temperature curve indeed allows estimation of overall heat form the specimens illustrated in Fig. 4. Due to anisotropic
transfer coefficient (between water and cold air). Measurements future of specimens, three samples for each specimen were
can be extended a variety of hot and cold space conditions, prepared. All specimens were cured for 10 days in a controlled
including effects of convection which could be a significant environment before thermal tests were done. The chemical and
component of heat transfer particularly for roof specimens. mechanical tests of fresh and hardened concretes with and
without rubber were accordingly performed. These data are not
4. Sample measurements and evaluation procedure presented here due to being beyond scope of the present work.
Thermal test results of the specimens are given in Fig. 5. The
The technique proposed here is found to be more utilizable instantaneous temperatures given in the graph represent
and free of many concerns when different anisotropic speci- temperature of water in the box, whose top surface is covered

Fig. 4. Geometric specifications of the specimens (from left to right: standard concrete, strip-rubberized concrete, and circular-rubberized concrete).
1032 B. Yesilata, P. Turgut / Energy and Buildings 39 (2007) 1027–1034

by the corresponding specimens. The cooling rate of water is standard concrete (no rubber case). The addition of strip rubber
directly related with thermal transmittance of the specimen in lowers the thermal transmittance of the concrete, or improves
question since major heat loss pass through from the specimen its insulation property. The best insulation improvement can be
surface. Some heat losses at insignificant level could be obtained with circular-rubberized concrete since the instant
possible from the other surfaces of the box; however, this does temperatures remain higher during the experimental-time.
not affect comparison since all specimens are subject to the The equilibrium temperature could not be obtained although
same internal and external conditions. Temperature curve for experiments last about 20 h. The dimensionless temperatures
each specimen is the average of temperatures obtained from the (u*) for the specimens are thus defined as,
three identical samples. Reproducibility of the experiments
TðtÞ  T o u
with identical specimens was fairly good (deviations within u ¼ ¼ (1)
3%). The instant value of cold room temperature was obtained Tðt ¼ 0Þ  T o ui
by averaging instant temperatures taken at three different points where T(t) and T(t = 0) = Ti indicate, respectively, water tem-
in the room. The local variations in cold-air temperatures were peratures at the beginning and at any instant time of the
all remained within 2 8C. The time-averaged value of instant experiments, and To represents the time-averaged temperature
temperatures in cold room is observed to be constant as shown of the cold space. This definition is useful even for the speci-
with a solid trend line in Fig. 5(a). mens tested at different internal and external temperatures,
The time–temperature curves for specimens show similar preserving the same heat transfer mechanism. The variations of
behavior at the beginning of the experiments. The temperatures u* with time are shown in Fig. 5(b) for the specimens tested.
sharply decrease first and then slow down. Significant The differences in thermal behaviors can now be observed more
differences exist in cooling rates of the specimens at clearly. The experimental time can be considered long enough
intermediate times. The largest heat loss rate occurs for the to make fair comparison since the decrease rate of the curves
get nearly constant at the end of experiments.
The physical meaning of the dimensionless temperature
parameter is that the ratio of hot water energy at any time to that
at the beginning of the experiment (available energy). The
corresponding meaning can be expressed for the hot water with
known mass (m) and specific heat (cp) as,
Q mc p ðT  T o Þ u
u ¼ ¼ ¼ : (2)
Qi mc p ðT i  T o Þ ui
Sum of the differences in u* values allows comparing thermal
transmittances of two different specimens. The percentage-
wise difference can be calculated by the following equation,
t¼0 t 
X¼    1  100 (3)
t¼0 t

where te indicates the total experimental time, and the sub-

scripts ‘1’ and ‘2’ correspond, respectively, rubberized con-
crete (strip or circular) and standard concrete (no rubber).
This selection is useful for determining effect of rubber
addition on thermal transmittance of the standard concrete.
The values of X for strip-rubberized concrete and circular-
rubberized concrete are found to be 8% and 14.7%,

5. Concluding remarks

The dynamic adiabatic technique described here is found to

be functional and robust for first estimation of thermal
insulation performances of complex structured (i.e. inhomo-
geneous, anisotropic, layered) flat specimens. The thermal
conditions in hot and cold spaces can easily be arranged and
Fig. 5. The transient temperatures: (a) in dimensional form and (b) in dimen- changed to examine various internal and external environment
sionless form. effects on thermal behavior. Although testing time is quiet long
B. Yesilata, P. Turgut / Energy and Buildings 39 (2007) 1027–1034 1033

due to low effective thermal conductivity of specimens, necessary to increase the utilization and standardization of the
maintaining the required cold space conditions during this time proposed technique.
are easy. The thermal insulation performances of rubberized
concrete specimens are compared with that of the ordinary one Acknowledgements
to demonstrate the measurement and evaluation procedures of
the technique. It is found that the insulation performance is This work was elaborated with the support of the Research
improved as much as 14.7% by addition of circular rubber Project funded by Turkish Scientific and Technical Research
matrix into the ordinary concrete. More work and tests are Institute (under grant TUBITAK-MAG-105M021).

Appendix A
Short description of common steady-state measurement techniques
Measurement technique Material type Temperature range (8C) Property range (W/m K)

1. Guarded hot-plate (flat or cylinder) Homogeneous composites; 180 to 1000 0.0001 to 2

insulation materials
2. Heat-flow meter (basic or guarded) Insulation materials 100 to 200 0.007 to 1.0
3. Hot-box apparatus (guarded or Building assemblies containing 20 to 40 Thermal conductance
calibrated) insulation, wood, masonry, glass range of 0.2–5
and other materials (m2 K)/W

Collected information from [2,20–22].

Appendix B. Appendix C.
Short description of common contact transient measurement techniques
Short description of optical transient measurement techniques

Measurement Material type Temperature Property

technique range (8C) range
(W/m K)

1. Laser flash method Metals; polymers; 100 to 3000 0.1 to 1500

2. Angstrom method Metals; alloys; 100 to 1300 Above 0.5
(a) basic and (b) diamond;
modified semiconductors;
and polymers;
3. Modulated beam Metals; polymers; 300 to 2000 1 to 500
technique ceramics
4. Photothermal Small specimens 50 to 500 0.1 to 200
methods of most solid

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