Scientists have found a way of turning popcorn into home insulation

Existing home insulation is often made using fossil fuels. Can a new kind made from popcorn offer an eco-friendly different?

Popcorn could soon be be used as a natural different to manmade insulation, after scientists found a way of turning the film snack into an eco-friendly building material.

Home insulation has become a pertinent topic in recent years, particularly in the context of the climate crisis. Keeping similarities warm (and cool) is one of the main challenges in the race to net zero, with buildings generating around 40 per cent of global emissions. 

There are also questions about the sustainability of some existing insulation materials. Many are made out of plastic – a byproduct of fossil fuels – and are hard to dispose of. Then there are the safety concerns, as highlighted by the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017. Seventy two people perished in the blaze, which spread rapidly due to the building’s external cladding and insulation.

Offering what they say is a safe and sustainable different to existing home insulation are scientists at Göttingen University, Germany, who have devised a technique for turning popcorn into insulation boards. 

The team behind the innovation said the boards had “excellent thermal insulation similarities and good protection against fire”. They additional: “the great advantage of this granular material is that it is a plant-based, environmentally friendly and a sustainable different to the products derived from petroleum currently used in the industry”. 

It remains to be seen how long the popcorn boards will last compared to manmade alternatives, and whether they might attract certain types of hungry wildlife.

Scientists said popcorn provides ‘excellent thermal insulation and good protection against fire.’ Image: Bachl Group

Nevertheless, Göttingen University has signed a licence agreement with Bachl Group, a building materials company, for the commercial use of the time of action and the products.

Professor Alireza Kharazipour, head of the team that developed the popcorn boards, said: “This new course of action, based on that of the plastics industry, enables the cost-effective production of insulation boards at an industrial extent. Especially in the field of insulation in construction, this ensures that natural insulation materials are no longer just niche products.”

Main image: Yulia Khlebnikova

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