Toshiba Develops Biodegradable Packing Material From Seaweed

Date: May 28, 2006

Source: Nikkei English News

Toshiba Corp. has developed a biodegradable type of packing material that is derived from seaweed and has cushioning properties similar to foamed polyurethane.

Unlike other biodegradable types of packing materials made from cornstarch, the new material has a resiliency comparable to foamed polyurethane in the way it returns to its original thickness after being compressed under heavy weight. And in contrast to the starch-based materials that exhibit a sudden collapse when heated to 75 C, it shows almost no shrinkage when heated.

Because it is biodegradable, the new packing material will eventually disintegrate when buried in landfill. But by dissolving the packing material in water, it is also possible to recover the seaweed-derived compound and re-form it into a new shape that compares favorably with the original packing material in terms of its properties as a cushioning material.

Toshiba hopes to have a practical version of the new biodegradable packing material ready in 12 months that it will use in-house on a trial basis for packaging.

The material is made from alginic acid, a fibrous component of seaweed. The alginic acid is reacted with alcohol and then dissolved in water. A plasticizer and a surfactant are added, and the mixture is then stirred at high speed at room temperature for five minutes to create a froth that is poured into a mold and allowed to dry.

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