A spongy, light weight, biodegradable foam produced by buriti palms remains elastic, rather than brittle at very low temperatures.

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Ductile ruptures are a specific class of fracture experienced by certain materials. As opposed to brittle fractures, ductile ruptures involve a material stretching like soft plastic before breaking. This plastic deformation absorbs a great deal of force before the material fails. Most materials tend towards brittle fractures at low temperatures and ductile ruptures at high temperatures (imagine the difference between room temperature glass and molten glass).

Buriti palms of the Amazon produce a structural biofoam,which is essentially a spongy, lightweight, wood-like material. The buriti biofoam is able to maintain ductile rupture type failures at temperatures as low as -196° C. At that temperature, virtually all materials exhibit brittleness. Moreover, the biofoam shows little change in mass or structural composition up to temperatures of 121°C (excluding the loss of moisture at around 75°C). Buriti palm foam is a biodegradable lignocellulosic structure containing trace metals such as Ca, K, Na and Fe.

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“A natural biofoam extracted from the petiole of the buriti palm tree has shown values of density and mechanical strength with potential for uses in engineering applications such as automobile interior parts and floating components. Moreover, foams can also be used as insulating materials in packing and building panels.” (Monteiro et al. 2010:104)

“[B]uriti biofoam has shown its potential as a new engineering material with a density lower than 0.1 g/cm3 in association with relatively lower absorbed humidity and open porosity. This biofoam could be used in floating systems. Moreover, by its mechanical properties and evidence of ductile rupture, even at the liquid nitrogen temperature of -196° C, the buriti biofoam could be applied as insulation material for very low temperature application.” (Monteiro et al. 2010:104)

Note: This paper does only describes the physical performance of the foam rather than its architecture.

Journal article
Thermal behavior of buriti biofoamMonteiro SN; Rodriguez RJS; da Costa LL; Portela T; Santos NSS

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