Swedish Scientists Have Developed a Wood-Based Foam to Replace Styrofoam
Lifestyle| | By Margo Gothelf
Thanks to a group of Swedish scientists, Styrofoam may soon be a thing of the past. The scientist have developed a new foam-like material called Cellufoam. The material is wood-based and has very similar properties to Styrofoam.
“But even better, it is from a totally renewable resource—something that we can produce from the forest,” Lars Wågberg, a professor in Fibre Technology at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, shared with Phys. Wågberg developed the Styrofoam-like material along with Lennart Bergström, professor in Material Chemistry at Stockholm University, and Nicholas Tchang Cervin, a former PhD student at KTH, in the Wallenberg Wood Science Center. The product would be a major boost to countries where forests are continuously planted and harvested, treating it much like a cash crop. It would help the environment and boost the economy at the same time. “The production begins with wood cellulose nanofibres, or fibrils, which are modified and mixed with a foaming agent, water, and air. Through the process of Pickering stabilization, these particles stabilize the air-bubbles in a way that is much better than by using simple surfactants,” Wågberg explained to Phys. The first major item to come out of this material is a bicycle helmet. “There are wood helmets out there, but what is unique here is that this one is made totally out of forest products—nothing else. The outer layer is veneer, the straps are made from extra strong paper, and then the foam is made from cellulose fibers,” Wågberg said. While a bicycle helmet is exhibiting the material right now, it has many other uses when combined with other material components. It could be viable for flame retardant materials, water filtration, and antibacterial material. “It’s really up to the imagination,” Wågberg shared. “In my experience, things like this wind up being used in ways you never expect.”
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