FOAMEX: developing an extrusion foaming process for polylactic acid (PLA)

The FOAMEX project develops new technologies for producing foamed products from polylactic acid. Focus of the project is an extrusion foaming process that is stable, economically viable and easily scalable.

PLA is a bioplastic used for a variety of items such as food packaging, textiles, electronics casings and casings for 3D printers and medical equipment. PLA is based on renewable raw materials originating from biomass such as corn and sugar cane. It is one of the cheapest bioplastics and also has good mechanical and optical properties, making it also a promising material for foamed products.

Alternative for oil-based plastics

The new process to be developed should be reproducible, stable, economically viable and scalable. If this is achieved, PLA foams could be a genuine alternative to foams based on fossil resources.

"The goal of this project is to lift the current knowledge of the foaming process to the next level. We believe that controlling melt strength is the key to success in extrusion foams. The project will make an inventory of various advanced routes (chemical, physical and technical) and directly apply them to tune the relevant property." - Project leader Gerald Schennink, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research.

This project is a collaboration of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, Synbra Technology, Nomacorc and Sulzer Chemtech.