They learned to make an eco-friendly replacement for foam from ordinary popcorn.
Styrofoam, or more precisely, expanded polystyrene (EPS) is a rather harmful material. Cheap and light, it does not decompose, and it is very difficult to recycle. Inquisitive scientists from Georg August University have found an alternative – they offer to make styrofoam from popcorn. The authors of the idea – Professor Alireze Kharazipour and his team – have been searching for an inexpensive and environmentally friendly alternative to expanded polystyrene for 10 years, and this is what came of it.
So, how corn foam is obtained: first, corn grains are crushed into granules. Further, with the help of steam under pressure, they expand, and the usual “explosion” occurs, the same one that we hear in the microwave when we make popcorn. Then a vegetable binding agent is added to the swollen granules, everything is mixed, and the mixture is placed under a press in a mold. When everything freezes, the corn foam block is ready for use.
In addition to the obvious environmental friendliness, such an organic product absorbs heat better than classic foam and is not so combustible. Also, waste from the corn industry is suitable for its production – for example, damaged cobs that can no longer be sent to store shelves. The remains can be thrown into compost, processed, distilled into biogas or even used as feed for farm animals.
The German company Bachl Group has received a license for the production of corn foam and now plans to produce the material on an industrial scale for the thermal insulation of buildings, as a classic protective packaging, as well as elements of sports equipment and automotive parts.