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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Researchers at the Hebrew University have developed a new method to convert
waste fibers from the paper industry into non-synthetic foam that can be
The project was spearheaded by Shaul Lapidot, a PhD student of
Prof. Oded Shoseyov, at the university’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture,
Food and Environment in Rehovot.
The Melodea company licensed the product
from the Hebrew University, and is now looking for seed money in order to bring
the foam product to the market. That product has two parts, the microscopic
fibers as well as the final foam material.
“Melodea is a Swedish-Israeli
company that aims to bring materials for day to day use from renewable
resources,” Lapidot said on Monday.
Using existing technology, the team
of researchers was able to take cellulose, a natural material produced by trees,
and reduce it to a microscopic scale. The tiny cellulose fibers were used as
building blocks to create the three-dimensional, lightweight and strong
Foams have many uses, ranging from seat cushions and the car
industry to integral parts of aviation, and air and space technology.
main inspiration for the project was large structures found in nature that have
been neglected in the plastic age, such as wood, specifically the Redwood trees
found in Northern California.
The team’s goal was to move away from
plastics and other raw materials that require oil production and to mimic these
large structures for industrial use.
To minimize environmental impact,
the researchers carefully chose the source of fibers to produce this
non-synthetic foam. Wood fibers are processed during paper production and this
“produce huge amounts of waste,” explained Lapidot. “A large part of the fibers
are not being used, and are washed away during production.”
researchers have developed technology to convert these washed away waste fibers
into the small cellulose fibers. From there, the new technology converts the
fibers into the non-synthetic foam.
Lapidot and Shoseyov collaborated
with Tord Gustafsson, a Swedish composite industry expert, Dr. Lea Carmel Goren,
who is experienced in Israeli clean-tech and biotech industries, and Tzipi
Landesman, who is experienced in business and marketing in hi-tech industries
worldwide, to found Melodea.
The project was funded by the European
Commission Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and partnered with the WOODY
project, whose goal is to develop products from natural raw
These foams have huge market possibilities, as they can be
used as higher-end foams to create composite materials, materials that combine
fabrics and foams, in industries such as aviation, construction and
transportation, Lapidot said.
Melodea hopes to develop its business on
First, by replacing all PVC foams (synthetic foams made using
oil), with all natural based foams. Second, by taking the raw materials from the
waste of paper companies and converting it into a valuable product. The company
is offering an alternative to paper companies spending money to dispose of their
waste in landfills or burning it.