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corn-based polystyrene

by Green Plastics


Polystyrene. It’s those firm, oddly-shaped foam pieces that fit around the computer or television when you first take it out of the box. It can be used to make plates and cups. (You can find a fun introduction to the material here.)

In one of its forms, it looks like tiny puffy white beads pressed together into a solid, hard shape. And normally, those tiny puffy white balls are made from petroleum.

But what if they weren’t?

Gregory Glenn and Simon Hodson have developed a new technique for processing starch plastic that yields an end result much like polystyrene foam.

According to the article, the process works generally like this:

  1. A standard plastic resin extruder is used to heat and mix starch and other all-natural compounds.
  2. The extruder squeezes out long strings, called “thermoplastic melt,”
  3. These strings are later cut into small beads about half the size of a marble
  4. The beads are put into the cavity of a heated mold to press them into the desired shape
  5. The heat mold process causes the beads to puff and expand until they press against eachother, creating a strong matrix that’s much like the bead matrix of polystyrene foams.

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