Development of a novel hydro-gel foaming technology for ultra-lightweight, cost-effective and biodegradable foams for thermal packaging applications
Lead University: Brunel University of London
Professor Jim Song, Virginia Martin Torrejon
Hydropak Ltd, Mike Collins
Bio-foams, foams produced from bio-plastics, have been demonstrated to have excellent thermal insulation properties for thermal packing in shipment of temperature-sensitive products (e.g. fresh/chilled foods and pharmaceutical products) and energy absorption for protective (or cushion) packaging against impact damages.
Bio-foams can be made to biodegrade. This facilitates biological post-consumer packaging wastes treatment in home or industrial composting and anaerobic digestion facilities and close the ecological loop. It is particularly important as plastics form waste are:
- lightweight and can easily be blown around as litter in the environment;
- bulky for waste collection, transport and recycling.
Aims and objectives
This research aims to develop a green foam (processing and formulation) to substitute fossil fuel-derived foams for packaging of food and pharmaceutical products.
The objectives are:
- To produce sustainable foam blocks with a thickness of at least 20 mm with similar properties to their PS and PE counterparts
- -Understand the relationship between formulation, processing and properties of the material (density, structure and thermal conductivity, among others)
- Optimise processing parameters: solution preparation, casting/moulding and drying
The flow diagram of the novel hydro-gel foaming technology consists in five stages:
- 1. Raw materials and processing of the additives
- 2. Processing of the hydro gel solution
- 3. Foaming of hydro-gel solution
- 4. Forming/moulding of hydro-gel foams into products
- 5. Solidification/drying of the hydro-gel foam into solid foams
- It is feasible to manufacture green foams from a liquid foaming technology
- The biofoams blocks produced here exhibit excellent properties (i.e. lightweight and good thermal insulation), and show comparable characteristics to their fossil-fuel counterparts
- The manufacturing process is considerably flexible and so, biofoams with a wide range of densities and rigidities can be manufactured