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Eco-friendly alternative to Styrofoam developed

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

In a first, scientists have developed an environmentally-friendly, plant-based material that works better than for insulation.

The foam is mostly made from nanocrystals of cellulose, the most abundant plant material on earth.

The researchers from in the US also developed an environmentally to make the foam, using water as a solvent instead of other harmful solvents.

Researchers have been working to develop an environmentally friendly replacement for polystyrene foam, or

The popular material, made from petroleum, is used in everything from coffee cups to materials for building and construction, transportation, and packaging industries.

However, it is made from toxic ingredients, depends on petroleum, doesn't degrade naturally, and creates pollution when it burns.

While other researchers have created other cellulose-based foams, the plant-based versions have not performed as well as

They are not as strong, don't insulate as well, and degraded at higher temperatures and in humidity. To make cellulose nanocrystals, researchers use acid hydrolysis, in which acid is used to cleave

The team created a material that is made of about 75 per cent cellulose nanocrystals from wood pulp. They added polyvinyl alcohol, another polymer that bonds with the nanocellulose crystals and makes the resultant foams more elastic.

The material that they created contains a uniform cellular structure that means it is a good insulator. For the first time, the researchers report, the plant-based material surpassed the insulation capabilities of Styrofoam.

It is also very lightweight and can support up to 200 times its weight without changing shape. It degrades well, and burning it doesn't produce polluting ash.

"We have used an easy method to make high-performance, composite foams based on nanocrystalline cellulose with an excellent combination of capability and mechanical properties," said Amir Ameli, at WSU.

"Our results demonstrate the potential of renewable materials, such as nanocellulose, for high-performance materials that can contribute to energy savings, less usage of petroleum-based materials, and reduction of adverse environmental impacts," said Ameli.

The researchers are now developing formulations for stronger and more durable materials for practical applications. They are interested in incorporating low-cost feedstocks to make a commercially viable product and considering how to move from laboratory to a

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 13 2019. 17:01 IST