Tamarind seeds to replace Styrofoam
Styrofoam or expanded polystyrene (EPS) has become an accepted everyday product which gained popularity for being lightweight, offering insulation properties and keeping things safe during the shipping process. Nonetheless, the petroleum-based plastic has harmful effects for the environment.
According to the Cleveland State University, Styrofoam requires more than a million years to decompose. More so, it harms marine animals, first by absorbing contaminants in the ocean and then being eaten by them and causing intestinal blockages.
But researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico are developing a biodegradable foam to replace it and what’s amazing it is made out of tamarind seeds.
Mexico produces 39,000 tons of tamarind each year, from which one-third are seeds and are normally thrown away. But Alfredo Maciel and Abel Humberto Cortés are adding ethyl acrylate (an organic compound) to the seeds and creating a foam with different properties.
“Depending on how much ethyl acrylate is added to the seeds’ polysaccharides, we can obtain either a softer and more pliable material, or one that’s firmer and can support a greater load,” explained to local media Maciel.
The tamarind seed-based foam could decompose after two or three months after being left out in the open and wouldn’t pollute the water. Although it is produced only in the lab right now it could serve as a substitute for expanded polystyrene based products like cups, disposable plates and shipping materials and their planning to take their production to an industrial level.
Besides the foam Maciel previously developed another biodegradable material for making cups and plates which is currently waiting to be patented.
Latin American Post