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Title: An investigation into the properties of starch-based foams
Author: Bonin, Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 2726 5076
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis reports research to investigate the mechanical, thermal and acoustic properties of biodegradable foams in block forms based on wheat starch and developed at Brunel University's School of Engineering & Design, in order to exploit the potential environmental benefits of this renewable and biodegradable class of materials. Two emergent novel technologies have been developed based on a combination of the extrusion foaming of starch in conjunction with the natural adhesive characteristics of moistened starch to produce block foams. Regular Packing & Stacking (RPS), and Compression Bonded Loosefill (CBL), are foam fabrication technologies which have both demonstrated the potential to produce bulk foams based on wheat starch with unique structures and properties - a new class of foam materials in the form of macro-composites reinforced by a network of high-density bonding interfaces. This thesis, as part of a Department of Trade & Industry/Technology Strategy Board funded project, reports an investigation into the following areas to address the scientific and technical issues involved in the further development of the materials and their applications. - The basic properties of the raw materials used in the manufacture of CBL and RPS foams are outlined and the fabrication and preparation of these starch-based foams are described. The limitations of these production techniques are discussed with preliminary work and suggestions made for their enhancement. - Research into the mechanical properties of the CBL and RPS foams includes compression, tensile, creep and dynamic impact tests, whilst the mechanical behaviour of the foams subject to high temperature and high humidity conditions is also reported. - Research into the thermal properties of CBL and high density RPS foams includes testing of the material's thermal conductivity. This aspect of the research also involved a case study detailing the use of RPS in a commercial thermal insulation application. - Research into the acoustic properties of CBL and RPS foams includes tests for sound absorption coefficient and sound transmission loss. - Data obtained from these tests are benchmarked against data pertaining to the mechanical, thermal and acoustic properties of conventional polymer foams in order to provide a basis on which to identify the potential cushioning, thermal insulation and acoustic insulation applications of the starch-based materials. The research has demonstrated the following: - Potential cushioning applications include those limited to the range of static loads within the capabilities of the materials, taking into account the resilience of CBL and RPS which is likely to be compromised by successive impacts. - Tensile forces tend to exploit weaknesses in the macrostructure of these materials. By implication the behaviour of the materials under shear forces would be expected to be similarly compromised. - CBL and RPS exhibited dimensional shrinkage, density increase and significantly reduced mechanical properties under conditions of high temperature and humidity. This suggests that neither CBL nor RPS foams would be suitable for applications in regions where tropical conditions may be encountered unless used in conjunction with other protective materials which would not acutely increase the environmental burden of the products. - Low-density RPS and CBL foams exhibit lower thermal conductivities and hence higher thermal insulation properties compared to many commercially available polymer foams of similar densities. As such these foams have the potential to be used in applications in which a measure of thermal insulation is required. A case study based on an existing commercial application in which the temperature of chilled products must be maintained over a 24 hour period reinforced these findings. - The performance of CBL and RPS starch foams would not provide sufficient functionality to be employed in applications in which dedicated acoustic performance is required, although their sound absorption capabilities may facilitate overall marketability for applications in which a degree of acoustic performance is required if used in conjunction with other materials which demonstrate good acoustic performance. It is anticipated that this work will make significant contributions toward advances in the development of these novel technologies, specifically in terms of establishing an understanding of the properties of the starch-based materials and in identifying potential applications. The research results should thus provide a fundamental element in the basis for the industrial development of these renewable and biodegradable materials.
Supervisor: Song, J. Sponsor: Department of Trade & Industry (Technology Strategy Board) Project 'Lightweight Eco-Composites Based on Renewable Raw Materials' (TP/2/MS/6/1/10118)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Biodegradable ; Polymer ; Mechanical ; Thermal ; Acoustic