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US scientists have come up with a new packaging material that draws on a natural product to provide an alternative to traditional foam plastic designs, according to a report from Packaging International’s website.

The packaging incorporates a protein called casein, which is found in cheese and cows’ milk, and represents a substitute for standard polystyrene foam.

Casein already forms a part of a number of coating and adhesive products. Researchers at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University blended the protein with clay and a binding molecule known as glyceraldehydes to boost the performance of casein, which is normally quite weak and susceptible to water damage.

The end-product was freeze-dried and, ultimately, a new substance emerged with potential applications within multiple industries, including packaging. Once finished with, the cow milk packaging is capable of breaking-down naturally: reportedly, 30% of it biodegrades within the first month of the process. This makes it much more environmentally friendly than the industry standard – Styrofoam.

Test results have shown that the new product can retain all but a few drops of liquid when exposed to a temperature of 100 degrees C. At double this temperature, the structure remains intact.

Details of the new foam packaging equivalent appear in the current edition of Biomacromolecules. ‘These foamlike materials hold promise for a wide range of applications where the low density and environmental friendliness are of great importance; the ultra-low-density layered architectures result in favorable mechanical and thermal insulation properties’, the researchers state at the conclusion of their article. – Source: Packaging International


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