How to

1 September 2016

Toasty Insulation - Stiff Carbon Foam Derived from Bread


The quest for clean living continues ever onward, with both companies and the public at large desperately seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint. One of the more common methods used to achieve this aim is to ensure that your home is properly insulated. Unfortunately, many of the forms of insulation widely used today still have a largely negative impact on the environment, constructed as they are using fossil fuels, HFCs and countless greenhouse gases, both artificial and otherwise.

Img source: acs.org
So, what can we do? Well according to a team of researchers led by Yibin Li at the Harbin Institute of Technology, the answer may lie in what is essentially burnt toast (provided your method of making toast at home includes a laboratory oven powered by argon gas).

It may sound nonsensical, but by using flour as the basic element, manipulated using fermentation and carbonisation in much the same way we do when baking bread, a form of pure carbon foam can be created with an adjustable pore structure, making it ideally suited for use as insulation. The resulting foam is also highly flame-resistant, applicable as an electromagnetic shielding material and is cheap to produce. It sounds like a win-win situation to me.

The recipe, courtesy of TreeHugger.com, is as follows:

  1. Mix up flour, yeast and water, hold the salt, knead, let rise.
  2. Bake for 18 hours at 80°C (~175°) until dry.
  3. Do second bake in laboratory tube furnace filled with argon gas until completely carbonised.
  4. Slice and serve as fireproof rigid insulation, electromagnetic shielding.
  5. Tune and adjust recipe "by changing the amounts of yeast and water, which would allow it to be used for a variety of different applications."

While I wouldn’t expect to see houses stuffed with overcooked bread any time soon, the research conducted so far is highly promising, and could pave the way towards the eco-friendly solution we’ve all been waiting for.


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.