Styrofoam replacement made from milk

Polystyrene, better known by its trade name Styrofoam, is a huge environmental burden to our planet.  This petroleum-based plastic is found everywhere, from disposable coffee cups to packaging to insulation. Styrofoam cannot be recycled  and it takes a thousand years to decompose. Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups each year and many, many products are packaged in Styrofoam. And when you break it, the damn stuff clings to everything!

So I was exited to find out that a biodegradable, non-toxic replacement material is on the horizon – made from milk and clay.

Scientist led by engineering professor David Schiraldi strengthened a cow milk protein, casein, with clay and glyceraldehyde (a triose monosaccharide).  They chose casein, already popular for use in adhesives, because it is water soluble.  Alone, casein is not ideal for packaging, but mixing it with the other two ingredients and freeze drying that mixture creates an aerogel, which is then baked in an oven to create a substance comparable to traditional Styrofoam.  Milk Styrofoam is sturdy, lightweight, and largely biodegradable.  The material is not yet mainstream as researchers are still working out practical and technological kinks. (InventorSpot)

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