Popcorn is the classic cinema snack, but the crispy crunchy delight offers more than just an added pleasure to watching a movie on the big screen. The popcorn kernel is an ideal natural resource for eco-friendly composite materials that can be used to produce not only insulation, flakeboard, and packaging but also furniture and children’s toys. For these products, the manufacturing industry typically uses polystyrene materials like Styrofoam, whose production, use, and disposal pollutes the environment.
The idea of using innovative materials from re- newable resources to replace polystyrene orig- inates with Prof. Dr. Alireza Kharazipour, who is member of the Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology at the University of Göttingen. His research in the technical bio-center concentrates on chemistry and the process technology of composite materials. A night out at the cinema with his wife in Göttingen inspired him to produce feather-light granulate from crushed corn. “In the dark, popcorn felt as light as Styrofoam balls”, recalls Prof. Dr. Kharazipour. “The next day I made popcorn at home.”
Soon his house began to reek of popcorn, so he had to move his experiments to the university’s lab. He mixed popcorn with wood chips to produce a flakeboard which has the same material stability but is up to 40 percent lighter. The Pfleiderer company in Gütersloh licensed his patent in 2011. By using his award-winning Balance Board, they manufacture kitchen furniture and equip AIDA cruise ships.
Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Kharazipour’s team at the Büsgen Institute has developed about 40 products composed of 100-percent crushed corn which use protein as a binder. “These products are lightweight because popcorn granulate resembles cells filled with air”, explains the professor. “If grain maize expands to popcorn, the volume grows by 15 to 20 percent.”
While 19-mm-thick flakeboard weighs 650 to 700 kg/ m3, popcorn board weighs in at an ultralight weight of 70 to 200 kg/m3 “It costs less than plastics-based materials but it’s just as solid and it can easily be cut by a circular saw.” The material may be reused and it may even be home-composted.
Because of the fire-resistant properties of popcorn-based material, various plastics manufacturers have submitted applications to license the patent for flakeboard. In contrast to Styrofoam-based insulation materials which burn fiercely at temperatures between 600 to 900 degrees in a combustion chamber, pop- corn board is merely singed. “Since popcorn consists of starch, the polysaccharide surface caramelizes and turns hard as stone.”
Moreover, with lambda figures below 0.040, popcorn insulation boaffers less thermal transmittance than Styrofoam, and thanks to its acoustic absorption properties, it’s the perfect sound insulation for cinemas, studios, and theaters. Popcorn leftovers, which usually end up as organic waste, can be processed into insulation board – in the best sense of the circular economy. “The possibilities are multifaceted, and they haven’t by any means all been exploited to their full potential”, concludes Prof. Dr. Kharazipour.
“The time for half-measures and climate denial is over. Unless we move quickly away from fossil fuels, we’re going to destroy the air we breathe, the water we drink, the health of our children, grandchildren and future generations. If we’re going to avoid the worst of the impacts, then we’ve just got to act boldly. And we must act immediately."
Actor, Director, Producer, Environmentalist
"The media has a powerful role to play in the fight against climate change. Through films, television, and all media outlets, we must continue to deliver the message that solutions are out there and are happening now. We have to make it attractive for people to take action. Movies like Avatar, The Day After Tomorrow, and documentaries like Years of Living Dangerously, which I was proud to be a part of, have been very popular, reaching and inspiring millions of people. And I believe films in particular can really inspire and make people want to take action. It’s great to see some of my film-industry friends working with climate related organizations to push forward those messages."
„It‘s high time to reorganize film production in Germany in a ‚greener‘ and more sustainable way. So far, I am flabbergasted by how much our industry works in environmentally harmful ways.To this very day, it starts with until today one-sided print-outs of scripts, and then it continues with plastic bottles in production offices and lots of plastic waste with every catered meal, and it doesn‘t stop with the limousines that pull up to a red carpet.
For many years, people have sneered at me when I brought my own cup or I declined to eat cheap meat served on paper or plastic plates with plastic knives and forks. It would be great if the Green Shooting Card could change all that.“
Director (Ben X, Time of My Life)
„It’s absolutely great that filmmakers all over the world are trying to clean up their act, and are trying to film as sustainable as we possibly can. Still, I think we shouldn’t underestimate the incredible power of the moving image to also change the hearts and minds of people.
So, apart from trying to be more environmentally aware in our business, I think the big gain lies in how we might make everyone more environmentally aware. Yes, cinema can change the world.
I think filmmakers should start using the powerful weapon in our hands that is the camera.
Let’s not only try to do ‘less bad’. Let’s try to do right, and help drive the change that we all know needs to arrive.“
“We are living in a time in which we can’t afford to behave irresponsibly towards nature. The more important is it that film productions try to work as environmentally friendly as possible. A film team produces every day tons of garbage. I try to avoid using plastic cups on set, I bring my own cup, use ecofriendly cosmetics and avoid needless single rides.”
Photo ® Maddalena Arosio
Darren Aronofsky, Director, Noah / Jury President, 65th Berlin International Film Festival
“When we did Noah we knew we were making a film about the first steward of the earth, so we wanted to be good stewards ourselves. There’s so much waste on film sets. Because of groups like Earth Angel, we were able to change that a little bit.”
"As a TV and film producer I try to incorporate environmental storylines into my projects as much as possible. But it’s just as important, if not more, to ‚go green‘ behind the scenes! Therefore, I help run the Producers Guild of America’s Green Initiative.
We provide resources such as a Best Practices and a Carbon Calculator to help producers green their productions. We also partnered with all the major studios to create www.greenproductionguide.com which is a free green vendor database with over 2,000 vendors offering sustainable production solutions worldwide!"
Producer, Director and Visual Effects Supervisor (2001: A Space Odysee, Blade Runner)
"Trumbull Studios in Massachusetts is dedicated to being green as much as possible, including the use of LED lighting, solar power, and solar laptops. This is not just because our location has limited amperage and no three-phase, we believe we have a responsibility to our community and our planet to be a clean industry.
We are planning for digital photography in 3D 4K at 120 frames per second from remote and inaccessible locations that will not have available power. Solar is the way to go."
Dieter Kosslick, Director Berlin International Film Festival
„The Berlinale is already actively addressing the sustainability subject since years. We appreciate it very much that a growing number of filmmakers, among them this year‘s jury presiden Darren Aranofsky, is following green guidelines on set.“
Director of Photography (A Most Wanted Man)
‘I never have been told precisely what the rules are for shooting a green movie, but we are trying to do it. This is something new for me. Sometimes people overlight scenes at night. I don’t. If I can see with my own eyes, then it is enough for the film. In that sense I am a green DoP.’
Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons who stars in the Berlinale Competition entry The Night Train To Lisbon is a fan of source segregated recycling. „Especially in Germany you have done a lot for that. You are examplary in the matter of waste separation.“
The Hollywood actor travelled around the world to promote the environmntal documentary feature film Trashed by Candida Brady which deals with the global garbage problem: „We buy it, we bury it, we burn it and then we ignore it“, says Brady. „With Jeremy Irons as our guide, we discover what happens to the billion or so tons of waste that goes unaccounted for each year.“
Since the world premiere at the International Cannes Film Festival in 2012 Trashed picked up various nominations and awards at international festivals.
Hi, very interesting your posts.
I would like to know more about the reflection light in the popcorn material vs the polystyrene.
I’m a film technician and often we use the polystyrene plates to illuminate the scenes in the shoots.
My question is, does it reflect more or less the same amount of light ?
Thank you or your interest in them popcorn material. I don’t think hat it will reflect more light thnn polysteryne. I will double check that and get back to you asap.
Hi Lorena, today I received the answer. The Büsgen Institute hasn’t researched the light reflection of the popcorn flakeboards. But according to the physical law, as Prof. Dr. Kharazipour explained, a white object such as popcorn flakeboards has to reflect light. Popcorn flakeboards have a very good acoustical absorption qualities and a low thermal conductivity.