by Lloyd Alter

Researchers have often suggested that building materials and insulations should be almost edible, noting previously that “cork, straw, and mushrooms can keep you warm and be a healthy, high-fiber part of a balanced building diet.” Now, thanks to researchers at the University of Göttingen, Germany, we can add popcorn to the list.

The press release takes a stab at answering a question that we have often asked about building materials: “What does sustainability really mean? It means the material should be environmentally friendly and made from renewable raw materials, it must have good thermal insulation and fire protection, and it must be easy to recycle at the end of its useful life.”

The research team led by Professor Alireza Kharazipour has been working on this for years–Professor Kharazipour has popcorn related patents going back to 2007–and has now “managed to develop a process by which insulation boards made of “granulated” popcorn can be produced that have excellent thermal insulation properties and good protection against fire. The great advantage of this granular material is it is a plant-based, environmentally friendly, and a sustainable alternative to the products derived from petroleum currently used in the industry.”

The board, which looks more like my beloved Rice Krispie Treats than it does like popcorn (I wonder what the R-Value of rice crispies is), is now being manufactured by  Karl Bachl GmbH & Co, a major producer of concrete and plastic foam insulation. It doesn’t seem like a good fit, but hey,
Michael Küblbeck, group managing director, says: “For us, this is another important milestone in our strategic development towards becoming an integrated, multi-material insulation supplier. Popcorn insulation complements our quality range perfectly and means we can respond even more precisely to the different requirements of the market and our customers.”

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