BioFoam®: The first CO2 neutral foam in the world
Synbra Technology bv is currently finalizing the certification of the world’s first particle foam to receive a Carbon Neutrality verification in compliance with the PAS 2060 standard. BioFoam® is a fully bio-based particle foam made from renewable resources. BioFoam® is a PLA based foam. Already starting up in 2006, Synbra Technology invented, developed and patented this unique material. Through its converting companies, Synbra Group wants to become the leading supplier of sustainable and biodegradable particle foam.
Synbra Group companies, such as IsoBouw, Synprodo, Plastimar and Styropack, are already using the BioFoam® material in series production for the white goods sector, ice cream packaging and the pharmaceutical sector, amongst others. Besides its own production facilities, Synbra is setting up a network of pioneering partner companies in the USA, the UK, Italy and in other European countries and is seeking coverage in strategic markets. The existing distribution and production network already offers BioFoam® moulded products as a valuable and sustainable addition to the existing range of particle foam products.
About PLA & BioFoam®
Based on renewable resources, BioFoam® is extremely environmentally friendly. After use BioFoam® can be either re-formed into a new foam product or recycled into solid PLA. Besides that it’s got the unique possibility to be fully composted. Since 2009 BioFoam® is a C2CCM (Silver) certified foam – the first foam to obtain this certification. It is already used in many applications and has become a driven product innovation within many industries (refer to the cases below).
Environmentally friendly and CO2-neutral
During composting biodegradable blends of fossil and bio-based plastics on the market still may release fossil CO2, this is not the case for BioFoam®, which is fully bio-based. It was the first foam to be awarded the Cradle to CradleCM certificate and has also received a material health certificate from EPEA-Hamburg certifying that BioFoam® is free from any CMR substance.
Unlike any other particle foam on the market, only CO2 (taken from the atmosphere) is used as a blowing agent. No VOC’s are emitted during production. BioFoam is a certified food-approved material. Without addition of a flame retardant it meets the Euro class E fire standard.
Wide recognition for BioFoam®:
- 2011 Winner of the Frost & Sullivan 'Green Excellence in Product Innovation 2011 award'
- 2011 Winner of 'Nederlandse Bouwprijs'
- 2010 NVC - Bronzen noot 2010
- 2010 Awarded the Cradle to Cradle certificate
- 2010 Winner of 'MKB Innovatie Top 100'
- 2009 NRK - 'PRIMA Ondernemen Award Goud'
BioFoam with many advantages
Many of the properties of the BioFoam product are comparable to those of Airpop:
- Retains its shape
- Excellent insulation
- High shock absorption
- Insensitive to moisture
- Complete three-dimensional freedom of design
- Durable, rot free, fungal proof and resistant to UV radiation
- Not hazardous to health
BioFoam adds an additional dimension to the sustainability of Airpop. It is made of an infinite raw material (plants).
First to be Cradle to Cradletm certified
BioFoam is the first biological foam grade in the world to be Cradle to Cradle certified! Completely in line with the Cradle to Cradle principle, BioFoam products can be endlessly reused without a loss of quality. BioFoam also drastically reduces CO2 emissions. The energy required to produce Airpop is already the lowest of all packaging materials. For BioFoam, the total emission of CO2 during production is even lower. Further research must lead to its CO2-neutral production in the future.
For all applications, BioFoam is durable and can be used for an extended time. BioFoam is used in both molded parts and in (contour) cut products. This allows a wide range of technical products and packaging solutions to be made with unprecedented freedom of design. The demand has arisen from various sectors for the bio-based and compostable foam, as a result of which we have already developed a number of products as you can see at the top of this page.
The most recent application are:
- Alabastine (Netherlands) - Trays in DIY market
- Zandonella (Germany) - Ice cream containers
- Cryostore (Netherlands - Transport boxes
- IsoBouw (Netherlands) - Renovation market an attic insulation
- Termokomfort (Netherlands) - Cavity wall, BioFoam pearls
- Isobouw (Netherlands) - Recapan
- Domogel (Italy) - Ice cream containers
- Erremme (Italy) - Ice cream containers
We have Dutch, Dansish, Portuguese and German converter companies as subsidiaries, as well as developing partnerships with several other companies.
Energy requirements and CO2 emission for polymers
As recently highlighted on the Bioplastics markets conference in Guangzhou, China bio-based plastics use renewable or biogenic carbon as a building block. This biogenic carbon is captured from the atmosphere by plants during the growth process and converted into the required raw materials. When the product is being incinerated at the end of its useful life, the biogenic carbon is returned to the atmosphere - or in other words, cycled in a closed biogenic loop, referred to as being ‘carbon-neutral'.
On the Plastics Europe website - on which one can find a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for most polymers and also a number of end products - a method is offered to compare the eco-profiles of different end products. This website also provides information regarding the kg CO2 emission per ton polymer, for the traditional polymers in those mentioned end applications. Based on an internal LCA from Purac Biochem for a lactide based PLA polymer and internal Synbra figures for the processing of BioFoam it is possible to make a comparison with traditional polymers. These figures will be incorporated in a formal BioFoam LCA, to be finalized in the very near future
PLA has a different production process than most other polymers. This polymer is derived from in the production of sugar cane, which is being refined to sugar, then fermented to lactic acid, from which lactide is being made. Lactide is finally polymerized to PLA. Of course for a number of these steps fossil fuel is also needed. The most important steps are sugar production, production of lactide, transportation and the polymerization of lactide to PLA. An important difference with the fossil fuel based polymers is that the raw material is originating from biomass, namely sugar cane, see figure 1.
The CO2 offsetting is not included in the GABI LCAGABI LCA i-report. In the Technical Specification “ISO/TS 14067:2013 Greenhouse gases -- Carbon footprint of products -- Requirements and guidelines for quantification and communication” it is stated that “The CFP (Carbon Footprint) and the partial CFP shall not include offsetting.” (chapters 188.8.131.52. and 184.108.40.206.). Also for example in the PCR (Product Category Rules) of the German EPD system (IBU) it is specified that “IBU does not allow CO2 certificates to be included in the quantification of the global warming potential.” (chapter 5.5.8, see attachment p.17). Based on these methodological guidance documents thinkstepthink step does not recommend to include the offsetting into the calculations but to communicate it in a qualitative way to show your commitment. The table below summarisessummarizes this in a transparent way.
The most important gain lays in the fact that during the growth of the plants net CO2 is absorbed. The sugar cane plants stores CO2 by forming sugar under the influence of the sunlight. This energy represents a large part of the energy needed of the end product and does not come from oil. During the production of lactide based PLA, which in the end will lead to molded BioFoam, on the average only 30-40% of CO2 will be emitted compared to the production of other polymers, which is a reduction of 60-70%. In some cases it can even be higher.
A recent study was carried into the use of a seed tray for growing plants using BioFoam and cardboard as material. It was calculated how many grams of CO2 would have been emitted to arrive at the same functional unit for BioFoam and cardboard It could be demonstrated that foams score better than the heavier part in cardboard, see figure 2. The part is a frequently used container for 15 bedding plants weighing 50 gram versus 200 gram in cardboard.
The foam expansion process and moulding process for BioFoam is being developed at a rapid pace to facilitate approval of molded prototypes. Parts are molded every week for interested customers in Europe and the USA. BioFoam processing has now left the laboratory and is running into series production for selected parts. The process of moulding is diligently adapted to suit expansion of the raw beads (called BioBeads) in existing Airpop shape moulding equipment, resulting in uniform expanded beads and uniform cell structures. A spherical and uniform series of raw beads in three classes sized 0,6-0,7mm 0,8-1,0mm and 1,0-1,4mm can be produced to suit the specific moulding application, see figure 3.
With a slightly modified pre-expansion process and an industrial moulding machine existing moulds of Airpop products were used to produce parts.
Physical and thermal properties
The physical properties of BioFoam have been determined, see table 1, and bear a good resemblance with Airpop. The thermal properties are strikingly similar, which has led to an interest in the cooled transport for supplies of medical substances. BioFoam is resistant to liquid nitrogen LN2 and CO2 granules or dry ice, the latter is often used in the cooled transport chain.
Table 1: Some physical and thermal properties of BioFoam compared to Airpop