The properties and technical characteristics of the expanded polystyrene, also known as EPS make it useful in a huge number of applications. Amongst others, the most common ones are connected to thermic, insulation, acoustic insulation, mechanic resistance and moisture resistance. A closed-cell foam, EPS is a plastic material that consists of hollow spherical balls, which come in a wide range of densities that give it different physical properties, making it perfect for a huge number of applications. Its density ranges from 11 to 32 kilograms per metre square.
Polystyrene foams are basically 95-98 per cent air. Whether you need thermal insulation, cushioning or protection of some goods, and regardless of whether it is for personal use or for work, there are many reasons why you might choose to use expanded polystyrene foam. Because of its lightweight and high resistance, EPS is the ideal material for a number of different uses, most notably insulation and packing, across a wide range of industries, including construction, pharmaceuticals, electronics, the food industry, and so on.
Thermal Insulation and Other Applications in Building Construction
Nowadays, there is a tendency in building and construction focused on lowering costs. In countries with a mild or tropical climate, there is a trend of using efficient measures for thermic insulation, since the costs for air conditioning in the warmer days can get even higher than the costs for heating in colder weather. This has given rise to the need to replace the heavy, rigid materials with lighter and simpler ones that also feature many favourable properties, such as durability, strength, toughness, but also lightweight.
So, more than anything, EPS is beneficial for construction exactly because it is energy efficient. This is because by providing thermic insulation, expanded polystyrene insulation reduces energy consumption, which consequently provides more comfort, as it allows for better control of temperature. Another important characteristic of EPS that makes it even more favourable for use in construction is that it also provides acoustic insulation.
The common thicknesses of EPS polystyrene sheets are between 10mm and 500mm. To provide different required properties for specific applications they can be customised, incorporate additives, or they can feature additional external layers on both sides.
EPS is also a material that doesn’t allow intrusiveness of any type of vermin, as it doesn’t provide any nutritional benefits to bacteria, pests or fungi. The versatility of EPS foam blocks also allows for a variety of applications in a wide range of industries. Some of the applications include insulation for facades, walls, roofs, floors, etc. It can also be used as a flotation material in the construction of marinas and pontoons, as well as a void-former in civil engineering projects, including as a filler material in road and railway construction. It is also used in the construction of bridges, drainage and so on.
Protection During Transport
As briefly aforementioned, another very common use of EPS is for packing. Apart from sheets, EPS can be moulded into food containers or as packing materials. Packings made of it can be solid blocks, peanuts that can cushion sensitive items inside boxes, and they can also mould perfectly in the shape of the product. The materials combine a variety of options for wall thicknesses, density and a number of reinforcements. On the other hand, the light weightiness of EPS reduces the costs of transport, labour, and thanks to its resistance, it eliminates breakages – making it even more cost-effective. One of its most impressive properties is that it can support more than 1000 times its weight. That, paired with its ability to absorb shocks, and its cost-effectiveness, makes it the perfect packing option.
Extension of Food Freshness
When it comes to the food industry, because it is a physiologically harmless material, as well as because of the fact that it is odourless and flavourless, EPS is also a very safe and hygienic material for packing. It protects the quality of the food for transport and commercialisation. Products that need temperature control, such as fish and seafood, can be packed in EPS.
First of all, the multitude of cells in it will act like independent air chambers, which insulate the contents thermally. Aside from this ability for thermal insulation, EPS is also highly moisture resistant, both of which mean that it will help extend the freshness of produce. Yet another benefit of packing food in EPS foam is that, because it is so strong and resistant to compression, it allows for stacking goods, regardless of the nature of the product, without causing damage. All of this makes it ideal for transporting vegetables, fruits and seafood.
Other Packing Applications
Essentially, expanded polystyrene can absorb the energy and the shocks produced by the impacts and vibrations during transport, protecting the products against damages. This ability to cushion the products is one of the things that makes it great for packing, especially when it comes to fragile, delicate and expensive items. This is also another reason why it is used for packing not only food but also chemicals, wines, pharmaceuticals, electronic equipment and so on. Furthermore, EPS can also be coated with aluminium paint, which can help avoid excessive electrostatic charge, thus further protecting electronic equipment.
EPS is also used widely for safety in different industries. One of them is the automotive industry, which uses EPS, because of its strength and ability to absorb impact. Namely, it is used in the production of motorcycle helmets, cycling helmets, car seats for kids, road barriers on race tracks and so on. Apart from that, because of its properties, it is also used for gliders, surfboards, light and model planes, and other products. It also has applications in horticulture as seedling trays, but it can also be used to promote aeration of the soil by adding granulated EPS as a soil conditioner.