Scientists Create Eco-Friendly Foam Out Of A Common Household Snack
By Alexa Heah, 19 Nov 2021
Image via Georg August University
While expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam is found nearly everywhere, it’s not so great for the planet. In fact, it’s a non-biodegradable material that’s hard to recycle. Thankfully, scientists at the Georg August University in Germany have come up with an alternative made from a common household snack: popcorn.
According to New Atlas, the idea first came to Professor Alireza Kharazipour a decade ago, when he was munching on a bag of popcorn in a movie theater. Now, he and his team have managed to turn the inexpensive snack into a biodegradable, renewable-source foam.
First, a machine shreds maize grains into granules, before using pressurized steam to “pop” them. Then, a bonding agent, made of plant protein, is added to the mixture, which is pressed into a mold. The result? A sheet of alternative foam that’s ready for use.
The university said its new inventive foam absorbs heat better than the standard EPS and is less flammable. On the environmental front, it can be composted, shredded to be reused, or even utilized as animal feed once it’s no longer in use. Aside from maize kernels, the corn industry’s waste products, such as broken cobs, can also be used to produce it, minimizing waste.
Currently, the team has licensed the technology to German firm Bachl Group, which will scale the production for commercial use. It will first make use of the foam in the construction sector as building insulation, before expanding to other areas such as protecting packaging or automotive parts.
“I think this is my contribution as a scientist for a clean environment, free of plastic-based products,” quipped Kharazipour.
[via New Atlas, cover image via Georg August University]
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