Polystyrene foam (often mistakenly called Styrofoam) has been used for decades in coffee cups, building materials, packaging…almost everywhere. Polystyrene foam is made from petroleum and does not degrade naturally. For that reason, researchers have tried to find an alternative for polystyrene foam for years. However, their efforts have failed in creating a material that has the same strength, insulation performance, and ability to hold its shape in higher temperatures.

Recently, researchers have developed a foam made from cellulose nanocrystals from wood pulp. They add another polymer, polyvinyl alcohol, to bind with the nanocellulose crystals to make the foam more elastic. The resulting cellular structure makes the new foam material a good insulator, lightweight, and able to hold up to 200 times its weight without losing its shape.

In addition to the development of this new material, a new manufacturing process was designed that uses water as a solvent as opposed to other more harmful solvents. The new foam material and the process that creates it is environmentally-friendly; the foam is able to degrade naturally and is not a pollutant when burned.

The Polymers Technology Center assists companies in the development of new processes and new materials. With our partnership with the Polymers Center, our customers have access to engineering and testing capabilities to help them with all aspects of the development process. Contact us and tell us about your new challenge. We are ready to use our expertise to help make it a reality.