Scientists reveal they can make fire-resistant foam out of burnt bread

Experts working at the American Chemical Society (ACS) have successfully developed a strong, lightweight carbon foam as a bi-product of…. Baked bread!

Two slices of burnt toast that can be used as a new high temperature textile

What can it be used for?

Essentially, the type of foam they have sourced presents researchers with large structural and insulating applications within the energy storage, aerospace engineering and temperature maintenance sectors.

This result of this innovative bread-based research surpasses current foams, as, unlike its predecessors, does not lack strength, is lighter, more cost efficient and is less challenging to produce in an environmentally-friendly way.

How did they do it?

In order to meet the aspects mentioned in the previous section, ACS unveiled an unexpected technique that many would not have seen coming, but the super-toasted bread procedure for creating the carbon foam was a hit.

Carbon foam structures are similar to of aerogels in that they present us with something that is lightweight thanks mainly to their 3D network, and are able to tolerate high temperatures, as well as altering their electrical and thermal properties.

While there are other things available to experts that can replicate the same result, banana skins for example, these materials still do not match up to the stability levels of the super-burnt bread, and they also possess invariable inner structures. What’s more, Qingyu Peng, Yibin Li and a number of their colleagues at ACS produced a low-cost, extraordinarily useful, and green method to develop and manufacture the strong carbon foam.

Tell me more!

To make the foam researchers put into practice a standard bread recipe, mixing flour, yeast and water, that was followed by the kneading process and then baking. After this point, the bread was placed in a laboratory tube furnace under argon gas conditions which in turn produced the end result; hard carbonised foam.

Argon gas is plentiful in nature, which means that it’s an economical way of making this type of furnace environment, and also stops graphite from burning at the high temperatures the process demands.

Tests on the final product highlighted how it was not only mechanically stiff, but also shielded against electromagnetic interference. This gave the researchers a clear and decisive insight into just how good the foam's limitations in applications for energy storage and insulation were. They were very effective, as we already mentioned.

Could this be something that we see adapted to work alongside high temperature textiles in a range of industrial sectors as well as sports, and even the military?

Image: V under Creative Commons.

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