Scientists cook up superfoam that fights back

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have transformed ordinary polyurethane packaging foam into a superfoam that not only refuses to be crushed but also actually increases in thickness when stretched. Under the same stresses conventional foam loses its resilience and its protective qualities, so the superfoam’s benefits for the packaging industry are obvious.

The secret lies in a new “cooking” technique and in the cooking oil, which has to be organic; olive oil, for example, will do nicely.

Similar foams have been developed before, but no-one has yet found a cost-effective way to manufacture them. This one is different because almost any conventional packaging foam will do as the main ingredient. The current manufacturing process, which is still being refined, consists simply of subjecting that ordinary foam to an industrial cooking process using inexpensive and easily obtainable ingredients.

Dr Fabrizio Scarpa of the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is leading the research project. He explained, “I decided to research this subject because I was interested in the mechanical and acoustic properties of negative Poisson’s ratio cellular materials. These solids expand in all directions when pulled in only one, unlike ‘normal’ materials.

“The breakthrough came when we started to use particular combinations of temperature and compression ratios on samples of normal open cell polyurethane packaging foam. The dynamic crush resilience of the new foam we created was remarkable – and its acoustic absorption properties were better than conventional foam too.

“We can produce small quantities of the superfoam in our labs here at the University, and we’re seeking a packaging industry partner to develop a full scale manufacturing process.”

Media Contact

Jon Pyle alfa

All latest news from the category: Materials Sciences

Materials management deals with the research, development, manufacturing and processing of raw and industrial materials. Key aspects here are biological and medical issues, which play an increasingly important role in this field.

innovations-report offers in-depth articles related to the development and application of materials and the structure and properties of new materials.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

New “smart bandages” hold potential for revolutionizing the treatment of chronic wounds

Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC are co-leading an effort to develop advanced electronic bandages and other tools to improve chronic wound monitoring and healing. Chronic wounds,…

Climate change: rising temperatures may impact groundwater quality

KIT researchers are investigating climate change’s impact on groundwater resources and its follow-on effects. Earth’s climate system is heating up due to the atmosphere’s increased concentration of greenhouse gases, which…

Development of pioneering marine energy technology

Innovate UK has awarded funding to further optimise a unique and flexible floating offshore wind platform for applications in the Celtic Sea, a collaboration involving Swansea University. The funding will…

Partners & Sponsors