'Green' Alternative To EPS Underway At Findland's VTT Tech Research Center
2. December 2014
With an aim to develop both an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective alternative to expandable polystyrene (EPS) for light packaging and insulation is Findland’s VTT Technical Research Center. VTT cites that the annual production volume of EPS is now around 12-million lbs, with most of the material ending up in either landfills or being burned which results in the release of hazardous compounds.
VTT has developed an alternative based on PLA, a bioplastic made from renewable materials with the help of lactic acid. Researchers have been investigating methods of foaming bioplastics to make beads that are further refined into products such as insulation sheets using typical EPS manufacturing processes.
According to research team leader Antti Ojala, the expansion of the bioplastic by foaming is carried out with consideration for the environment using CO2. The density and heat insulation properties of the new biomaterial have been demonstrated to be similar to those of polystyrene.
VTT is now planning to bring its developmental work closer to industrial processing—moving from laboratory work to factory testing. As such, VTT is actively looking to partner in furthering this development with companies operating in the field. According to Ojala, PLA products similar to PS already exist, but are too high in cost. In that vain,VTT will be looking for new and more efficient production methods to enable the manufacturing of ‘affordable’ products.
VTT is also developing a process for PLA based on extrusion foaming with the aim of replacing PS in traffic and packaging applications.
Interested parties can contact research team leader Ojala at: email@example.com.
Do note that at NatureWorks' Innovation Takes Root conference in April of this year, a PLA bead foam called Zealofoam was displayed by its developer, New Zealand's The Biopolymer Network and one of its sharedolders Scion.
Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.