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Posted: December 13, 2007

BASF AG: Innovative Isolation Mortar for Tiles Convinces the Professionals

(Nanowerk News) High ceilings graced with decorative stucco elements, antique wing doors, generously proportioned rooms: increasingly, people are opting for the distinctive ambience of a tastefully renovated older building. But when refurbishment involves laying new ceramic floors, older dwellings also present very special problems. Problems for which PCI Augsburg GmbH, a BASF subsidiary company, has now developed the all-in-one solution PCI Nanosilent . Most of the old suspended ceilings, for example, are made from a combination of materials that expand to differing degrees in response to variations in temperature and humidity. Cracks can appear in freshly laid tiled floors and have to be prevented by mechanically isolating the floor covering from the substrate. The sound insulating properties of old walls often also leave much to be desired: without additional footfall sound insulation for the floors, a latish evening with friends could soon lead to trouble with the neighbors.
The traditional technique is demanding and time-consuming: firstly, irregularities and cracks in the substrate have to be eliminated by applying a levelling compound. Only when this has cured can the sheets for isolation and footfall sound reduction be laid. The craftsman has to cut them precisely to shape and stick them onto the substrate. When the adhesive has set, he has to seal the joints between the sheets with adhesive tape before the tile adhesive can be poured on top.
Levelling, isolation, sound reduction with PCI Nanosilent , PCI Augsburg has developed a new, self-levelling isolation compound that combines these three steps into a single operation. "Previously, preparing the substrate took several days, mainly because of the long times spent waiting for the levelling course and adhesive to set," explains Theo Baumstark, tiler from Wiesbaden, Germany. "With PCI Nanosilent , all you need do is pour, spread, deaerate and you're done! And you can start laying the tiles the very next day." The isolation mortar derives its special properties from its additives, special polymers and rubber granules. These rubber particles provide the high flexibility of PCI Nanosilent after it has cured and are responsible for the product's outstanding isolating properties. A study performed by Munich Technical University puts the reduction in tension at 86 percent (by comparison: 100 percent would represent a non-stuck tile that can move completely freely).
"Manufacturing these special rubber granules and especially embedding them optimally in the cement matrix were the toughest challenges we faced when developing PCI Nanosilent ," says Elke Thiergrtner, Product Manager for tiling materials at the BASF subsidiary in Augsburg. The effort was certainly worth it, because the flexibility of the isolation mortar produced by the tiny particles of rubber provide excellent footfall sound reduction. "Tests conducted by the Leipzig Material Research and Testing Institute showed that a footfall sound reduction of 11 decibels was achieved with a PCI Nanosilent layer thickness of 10 millimeters. This is approximately equivalent to halving the perceived footfall sound and is within the same range as for conventional sound insulating boards," comments Manfred Schnell, Professor of Construction Engineering at Augsburg Technical College.
Irregularities in the old substrate are no problem anyway for PCI Nanosilent : since the powder is mixed with water and applied in liquid form, layer thicknesses of 5 to 15 millimeters, and in some cases as much as 20, can easily be obtained with the self-levelling isolation compound. Products from the "nano" line of PCI Augsburg also make life easier for professionals and do-it-yourselfers during the working steps that follow. The variable flexible mortar PCI Nanolight , for example, is suitable for laying all types of ceramic flooring.
It is also outstandingly productive: with 15 kilograms of PCI Nanolight the same tiled surface can be laid as with 25 kilograms of conventional flexible mortar. The secret? Fillers of light, expanded glass which in PCI Nanolight replace the otherwise usual silica sand. When the tiles have finally been laid, the universal flexible joint grout PCI Nanofug is used, which is suitable for all joint widths and all ceramic floor coverings.
All three products justifiably bear the prefix "nano", as Elke Thiergrtner explains: "The decisive material structures for each function are in the nanoscale range. The special goal in developing these materials was to influence the curing of the mortar so as to produce these optimal nanostructures. They provide improved bonding between the substrate and tile even with dense and less absorbent ceramics." In most cases, however, the happy occupants of the completely renovated dwelling will likely be unaware of having so much high tech beneath their feet.
The Prospects
"Poly-Chemie-Ingenieurtechnik", for short: PCI Augsburg GmbH, can now look back on an almost 60 year company history during which with operating facilities in Augsburg, Hamm and Wittenberg it has advanced to become Germany's market leader in ceramic laying. About 20 percent of all tile adhesives sold in Germany are produced by PCI, which since 2006 has been part of BASF's Construction Chemicals division.
Among the most exciting innovations in this market is the "nano" line from PCI with its latest addition PCI Nanosilent .
To offer customers maximum safety, after product development the self-levelling isolation compound passed through an extensive trial phase in which the tiles were observed over long periods after laying. And this patience was rewarded: in the first six months since the product launch in early 2007, no less than 25,000 square meters of PCI Nanosilent have been levelled, isolated and sound insulated with PCI Nanosilent a conspicuous success. PCI sold 60 percent of the production output in Germany, the remainder to other European countries.
The Info Box - A brief ABC of mortar, cement & Co.
With its high tech formulation, PCI Nanosilent is writing a new chapter in the long history of the construction material mortar. This development can be traced back a good 10,000 years, when early craftsmen in what is now Anatolia used mortar with quicklime as a binder to build brick walls. The art of construction with mortar reached its first peak with the Ancient Romans, who produced lime mortar not only to build walls, but also as the precursor of modern concrete, opus caementitium. The construction of the cupola of the Pantheon in Rome with its diameter of 43 meters bears impressive witness to this achievement. Today we have an enormous variety of special mortars for every application here are some of the main categories: top of page
  • Mortars consist of a binder (cement, lime or polymers) and aggregates such as sand or clay and, in modern mortars, also polymers, which are stirred with water and harden after application.
  • Cement is now the most widely used binder for mortar and concrete. It consists of a complex mixture of substances including not only calcium silicate but also certain amounts of aluminium and iron oxide as well as sulfates.
  • Quicklime in chemical terms is calcium oxide. On contact with water and the carbon dioxide in the air, it gradually hardens into lime crystals.
  • Concrete is a mortar with admixtures of coarser stone. It is used to build purely concrete structures often in the form of steel reinforced concrete.
  • Flexible mortars offer an increased range of adhesiveness and improved flexibility due to the inclusion of suitable special polymers. The composition of polymer enhanced joint grouts makes them particularly water repellent.
  • Source: BASF