Styrofoam Made of Wood

Wood that cannot be commercially exploited could be used as replacement for less eco-friendly materials. Researchers at Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology think maybe we could soon say goodbye to polystyrene, the petroleum-based material that is used to make Styrofoam.

They found a way to make a new shock-absorbing material from wood. Trademarked under the name, Cellufoam, the material was developed by Lars Wågberg, Professor in Fibre Technology at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, together with Lennart Bergström, Professor in Material Chemistry at Stockholm University, and Nicholas Tchang Cervin, a former PhD student at KTH, in the Wallenberg Wood Science Center (WWSC). According to KTH, the wood-based foam material offers comparable properties to Styrofoam.

In what looks like an ordinary bicycle helmet, Swedish designers have replaced Styrofoam with the new shock-absorbing material. The helmet was produced by Cellutech, a Stockholm startup that specializes in cutting edge materials made from wood, in conjunction with the Swedish Forest Industries Federation’s Ekoportal2035.

The helmet concept is intended to draw attention to the possibilities of using wood cellulose as a sustainable alternative to Styrofoam and other foams from synthetic polymers. The production begins with wood cellulose nanofibres, or fibrils, which are modified and mixed with a foaming agent water and air. Through the process of pickering stabilization, these particles stabilize the air-bubbles in a way that is much better than by using simple surfactants, KTH explained. While the Cellufoam is being showcased as a bicycle helmet material, Lars Wågberg says that by using different surface treatments and combinations with other material components, it could also be suitable for flame retardant materials, water filtration, and antibacterial material.

Photo: Cellutech/AlphaGalileo