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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1301

Foam Alginsulate foam

Foam Alginsulate foam Alginsulate Foam represents a completely new development. It is not a question of replacing an existing process by a new, ecologically more acceptable variant, but rather the realisation of a technical concept moving in the direction of permanent self-regeneration, a model in which the main effort is directed towards the maximum conservation of resources. The key element is the use of selfby Bettina Reichl Verpackungszentrum Graz Graz, Austria Brown algae (seaweed), which are rapidly self-regenerative and which exist in unlimited quantities are conceivable as a raw material for many different products. In cooperation with the University of Technology in Graz, Austria, a new process for the production of an ecologically non-polluting foam material has been developed. ALGINSULATE FOAM is not soluble in water, but it is light and biodegradable or recyclable with waste paper. Air is used for foaming the Alginsulate Foam. The production process itself is very simple. Few appliances and machines are required and with very low investment costs it is economically possible to use a decentralised process even in smaller plants. Tests have shown that Alginsulate Foam also has natural fire resistant characteristics. Project Description The almost inexhaustible resources of the oceans are becoming more and more interesting for various sectors of the economy. Maritime farms can engage in the breeding of animals under the surface and use the sea-bed as an arable area. A rapidly self-regenerative raw material, available in unlimited quantity is offered by algae. The exploitation of such raw materials to develop ecologically meaningful products is the order of the day. Because of the constant reduction in resources ashore it is necessary to find a sustainable solution. It is almost impossible to imagine life today without foamed plastics. Their uses are multifarious and, in certain sectors, they appear to be irreplaceable. Their range covers insulating materials via packaging materials, construction components and even as far as elements within safety technology etc... The advent of the Alginsulate process means that a foamed material can be produced in a manner which protects the environment. 32 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/13] Vol. 8

Foam regenerating raw materials. Thus only so much is taken out of the ecological system and can at the same time grow again. This requirement is clearly fulfilled by the raw material algae.. Because algae are available all over the world, the process can be used practically anywhere. The rapid regeneration of algae flora – up to one metre in 12 hours – means that the resource is almost inexhaustible. The process can be used economically in small, decentralised plants so that factories are conceivable in developing countries, providing work as well as a means of subsistence. Because of the large volumes of foam involved transport distances should be kept as short as possible. This is not the case with the process currently being used for foam production. However, because the raw material proportion is very small, production even in countries without a sea coast will not be a problem because algae in a dried, powdered form can be used as raw material. The groundwork for the so-called Alginsulate process was developed by the Institute for Process and Particle Engineering at the University of Technology in Graz, Austria, in cooperation with the Universidad de Magallanes Punta Arenasin, Chile. The project was initiated by Verpackungszentrum Graz, a packaging wholesaler, specialising in ecologically acceptable packaging materials. For further development in the pilot plant, the firm Algotec was founded by Verpackungszentrum Graz in cooperation with the existing constructional engineering firm ATU Ferlach / Austria. The following results were obtained: a complete calculation of the mass and energybalances of the process, the basic layout of apparatus and machines, an initial cost estimate combined with the resultant calculation of investment required. A further result is the basic definition of process parameters i.e. the determination of the optimum operating condition and the definition of the technically useful concentration areas of the raw materials used. The primary aim of current development is a final assessment of whether, and in which form, this process can be exploited industrially. Studies completed so far have proved its practicability in principle. Further work will now proceed in the direction of technological development, above all towards modification of the process to achieve certain product characteristics by the use of supplementary materials and in the physical shaping of the end product. The Process The fundamental elements of this process are an enormous reserve of natural raw material in the form of brown algae, an ecologically neutral foaming propellant, i.e. normal air, and as a reaction environment, - normal water. In addition, the inorganic materials sodium carbonate and calcium chloride are used in the production process, but in such a small quantity that they cannot have any negative effects on the environment. Thus, during the whole of the manufacturing process no ecologically harmful compounds can possibly be discharged into the environment. For the production of the foams as such, two foaming systems are available, namely, the foaming of individual particles and the foaming of semifinished products or even finished shapes. Independent of the foaming system, the production process consists of six phases: • Preparation of the raw materials • Saturation with air • Foaming • Drying • Shaping These prosessing phases are followed by subsequent processing steps according to the finally intended use www.vpz.at bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/13] Vol. 8 33

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