When it comes to developing new materials these days, sustainability is key and covers multiple aspects. Using raw materials from renewable sources and ensuring the resultant product can be recycled at the end of its service life are paramount in this context. One particular material that meets these demands perfectly are the 100% wood foams developed by the Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut (WKI) at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research. The natural binding properties of wood eliminate the need for synthetic adhesives, making wood foams ideal for a whole range of applications - be it as a core material for lightweight construction and sandwich panels, as packaging material, thermal insulation or for soundproofing purposes. But determined not to stop there, the institute's researchers launched the "HoMe foam" project to extend the range of potential uses for their wood foams.
Led by Dr. Frauke Bunzel, the researchers at the WKI joined forces with fellow scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research (IFAM) to develop an innovative hybrid wood-metal foam that combines the properties of both wood foam and metal sponge. One of the major benefits to strengthening the wood foam with a metal skeleton is that the foam's typically low flexural strength improves substantially, with the hybrid HoMe foam ultimately boasting greater flexural strength than its two individual components. "That makes it an ideal core material for sandwich panels or as a self-supporting lightweight semi-finished material," explains Dr. Bunzel. The researchers believe the material would be perfectly suited to the automotive industry in the form of reinforcing acoustic mats in engine compartments or as floor plates - but they promise that’s just one of the many potential uses to this cutting-edge solution.
Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research - Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut (38108 Braunschweig, Germany)