The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed an alternative to expanded polystyrene (EPS), based on bioplastic material polylactic acid (PLA).
The annual production volume of EPS is 5-6 million tonnes a year. Usually this non-biodegradable material ends up on waste tips or is disposed of by burning, which results in compounds that are hazardous to health.
PLA products similar to polystyrene already exist, but VTT's aim is to create a more cost-effective option, based on efficient production methods.
The VTT research investigated methods of foaming bioplastics to make beads that are further refined into products such as insulation sheets, using methods typical of EPS manufacturing processes. The bioplastic is foamed using carbon dioxide, to create a biomaterial with similar density and heat insulation properties to those of polystyrene.
VTT now plans to progress to industrial processing, moving the technology from lab to factory testing. The organisation is seeking industrial partners to assist with these steps.
VTT is also developing a process for PLA based on extrusion foaming, in order to replace polystyrene in traffic and packaging applications, for example.
This article comes from Food Contact World, which provides exclusive news and analysis on developments in food contact material , markets, and technologies.
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