Extrusion Parameters for Foaming of a β-Glucan Concentrate
Journal article, 2019
Plastics is a group of materials commonly encountered on a daily basis by many people. They have enabled rapid, low-cost manufacturing of products with complicated geometries and have contributed to the weight reduction of heavy components, especially when produced into a foamed structure. Despite the many advantages of plastics, some drawbacks such as the often fossil-based raw-material and the extensive littering of the material in nature, where it is not degraded for a very long time, needs to be dealt with. One way to address at least one of the issues could be to use polymers from nature instead of fossil-based ones. Here, a β-glucan concentrate originating from barley was investigated. The concentrate was processed into a foam by hot-melt extrusion, and the processing window was established. The effect of different blowing agents was also investigated. Water or a combination of water and sodium bicarbonate were used as blowing agents, the latter apparently giving a more uniform pore structure. The porous structure of the foamed materials was characterized mainly by using a combination of confocal laser scanning microscope and image analysis. The density of the samples was estimated and found to be in a similar range as some polyurethane foams. A set of 3D parameters were also quantified on two selected samples using X-ray microtomography in combination with image analysis, where it was indicated that the porous structure had a pre-determined direction, which followed the direction of the extrusion process.