Wood foam may be a new form of green home insulation

Wood foam may be a new form of green home insulation
Samples of Fraunhofer's wood foam insulation
Samples of Fraunhofer's wood foam insulation
View 1 Image
Samples of Fraunhofer's wood foam insulation
Samples of Fraunhofer's wood foam insulation

Insulating your home may help the environment by lowering your energy usage, but unfortunately the petroleum-based foam that's typically used as insulation isn't all that eco-friendly itself. Researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, however, have developed a reportedly greener alternative that they claim works just as well – it's foam made from wood.

To produce the foam, wood particles are first ground so small that they form into a slimy solution. A gas is then added to that slime, causing it to take on a frothy consistency. Once that froth hardens – a process that is "aided by natural substances contained in the wood" – a dry, porous foam is the result. The finished product can take the form of either rigid foam boards, or flexible mats.

The slime can also be converted into foam via induced chemical reactions.

"We analyzed our foam products in accordance with the applicable standards for insulation materials," said Fraunhofer's Professor Volker Thole. "Results were very promising; our products scored highly in terms of their thermo-insulating and mechanical properties as well as their hygric, or moisture-related, characteristics."

While other wood-based insulating mats and wools do already exist, they have a tendency to shed fibers and to compress in the middle as they settle.

The Fraunhofer team is now researching what types of wood work best, along with how to scale up the foam-making process to commercial production levels. Needless to say, the eco-friendliness of the foam will depend largely upon how many trees need to be harvested in order to supply the raw material. Hopefully wood waste from existing industries could be used, as is the case with wood-based foams being developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Freiburg.

Source: Fraunhofer

I wonder what the properties with regard to fire. The oil based isolation materials are terrible in that respect as in them not only being able to burn they also release a lot of poison smoke when there is a fire.
The best choice for isolation is really the wools made from stone. It ma y even be that making stone wool is so efficient that it takes less energy to make than this new wood thing.
Great idea, but what about flammability? I'd be a little worried that foam wood would burn very well!
Tim Jonson
Hopelessly flammable.
Umm, isn't that paper? Just a guess, but I am thinking that burns.
Where is the problem with fiberglass?
Sculptors would love this stuff though. Work through ideas before using more expensive materials or when making temporary sculptures. Much nicer than corrugated cardboard.
Oh, it's wood, so it must burn? I'm sure Fraunhofer, a long-established and respected science and engineering concern, has thought things out before random commenters weighed in. For instance, it's pretty common knowledge what common, non-toxic additives would make this fire resistant (as well as resistant to termites and other pests). Ever heard of borax? Here's something to chew on: there are millions of American homes with cellulose insulation and they meet fire codes because of said additives. Cellulose is also essentially paper. FYI, this is intended to replace things like expanded polystyrene insulation boards, which everybody has seen on the outside walls of houses and buildings under construction. EPS boards including the Styrofoam™ brand are also quite flammable.
Brionne Campbell
REALLY? Are we still at this STONE AGE step?
H. E. M. P.
A company called Cool or Cosy have been producing a chemically treated paper based insulation for more than 35 years will excellent fire retard. First used in my house in Perth in 1979 and have since used the same in Thailand - see www.thaicoolcell.com
It's open cell insulation. Not very good really. Open cell results in low R factor.
Dave Andrews
I wonder if it will be resistant to pests like termites and wood ants. Also curious about what happens when it gets wet.
Load More