AeroClay Packaging Uses Freeze Dried Foam

A freeze-dried mixture containing clay and polymer could be the next product to make a splash in the world of sustainable packaging. AeroClay, a technology developed at Case Western Reserve University, is a formable, environmentally friendly product that has been researched for a variety of uses.

Compadre, an Austin, TX based company specializing in transit packaging solutions, is exclusively licensed to look into how AeroClay can be used commercially in the packaging sector.

The key procedure in AeroClay production is freeze-drying. A clay and polymer-based mixture in a liquid state is frozen into the shape of its final form. Then, once solid, it is freeze-dried, allowing the ice to be vaporized. This results in a lightweight and porous product.

In an interview with Packaging Digest, Yuxin Wang of AeroClay, Compadre CEO Darryl Kelinske, and CFO J. Gordon McGill, say they are interested in seeing AeroClay used in protective packaging and void filling applications.

They claim that AeroClay’s strong absorption properties make it compatible with high temperatures, possibly enabling use in hazardous material packaging. Because the material can be formed in a sterile environment, Wang, Kelinske, and McGill said there may be opportunities in the medical field and for edible products.

Wang, Kelinske, and McGill also say they have received interest in using AeroClay as a flame-retarding foam for transporting electronic devices, as a recyclable cushioning for non-petroleum based resources, and as insulation, filler, and absorbing foam for transporting chemicals.

Finished AeroClay can be categorized into two separate groups: the bio-series and the synthetic series. The bio-series AeroClay is made from renewable, non-petroleum based raw materials. The synthetic-series provides opportunities to create AeroClay for specialty purposes. Some of the polymers that can be used are polyvinyl alcohol and epoxy.

To further develop the technology, a lab and prototyping facility in Austin is in the works, with continual research still conducted at Case Western Reserve University.

Cory Francer is the senior content editor of packagePRINTING.

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