Germany is known for its cutting-edge policies on green issues, and its drive towards a clean economy. One of its latest eco-breakthroughs comes from the University of Freiburg's Biofoambark project. Researchers there are trying to green up the insulation foam used in construction, by replacing its petroleum-based ingredients with a naturally-occurring compound that ordinarily goes to waste in the lumber industry.
The raw material for the biofoam is tannin, a compound found in tree bark. Properly processed, it can be used to produce hard foams that are not only good for insulation for buildings and molded auto parts, but that also have flame-resistant properties. It’s also possible that the foams could come to replace the toxic, über-un-green polystyrene (more commonly known as Styrofoam).
Additionally, the research team would like to give their biofoam an extra job by converting it into biofuel once it's ready to be discarded. This would further increase the usefulness of the raw material from which it's made.
Recently, the project caught the attention of specialists at the Fraunhofer Association, who awarded it the German High Tech Champion distinction award in the Green Buildings category. The Biofoambark research is supported by the German government through its Agency for Renewable Resources. It also receives support from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg as well as commercial and industrial partners in Italy, Spain, Finland, Slovenia, and France.
The University of Freiburg research is not the first attempt at making biofoam from organic waste. A researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been working on a method to make foam from paper mill waste products.
Source: University of Freiburg