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Abstract

An annular die is used to extrude cylindrical starch foams which are then sliced to yield foam sheets suitable for cushioning protection and insulation of shipping containers. Although starch foams, as a possible replacement of petroleum-based foams, have been prepared in the past, their sensitivity to humidity remained a problem. Extensive research in the last few years has been focused on resolving the collapse of the foam at high humidity, improve the cushioning protection, and develop an economical foaming process. However, these issues are still problematic and need to be resolved before such biobased foams can gain entry into the marketplace. In this study, a Box–Behnken statistical design of experiment was used to optimize the properties of foams extruded with various additives. It was found that the density, cell structure, and the rate of water penetration of these foams were affected by the feed rates (e.g., foam composition) of the water, talc, and poly(hydroxy ether) (PHE). The use of PHE was found to be extremely effective to minimize the water sensitivity and it significantly increased the water penetration time of the foam sheets. These starch foams efficiently absorb impacts and recover its physical shape quickly to provide multiple cushion protection for moderately delicate products. POLYM. ENG. SCI., 2013. © 2012 Society of Plastics Engineers