Wood foam offered as 'greener' insulating material

Foams based on petrochemical plastics are used extensively in the construction industry because of their low cost and superior insulation properties.

However, these materials aren't exactly kind to the environment, and as such a team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research has come up with a greener, more sustainable alternative.

"Our wood foam can be used in exactly the same way as conventional plastic spray foams, but is an entirely natural product made from sustainable raw materials," said lead researcher Professor Volker Thole.

The scientists created the foam by grinding wood into a 'slimy mass' before adding gas to expand it into a frothy foam.

The resulting material was then hardened, aided by natural substances contained in the wood itself.

Unlike other wood-based insulation materials, which tend to sink in the middle due to temperature fluctuations and damp, the Fraunhofer team says its wood foam is "every bit as good as conventional plastic foams" in terms of insulation and robustness.

"We analysed our foam products in accordance with the applicable standards for insulation materials and the results were very promising," Prof Thole continued. "Our products scored highly in terms of their thermo-insulating and mechanical properties, as well as their hygric, or moisture-related, characteristics."

Laura Hopperton

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