Biobased foam

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Any lightweight, porous solid material derived from biological material. Naturally occurring materials that have foam-like structures are numerous: wood, cork, sponge, fungi, honeycombs, cancellous bone, horseshoe crab shells, toucan beaks, antlers, etc. The vascular texture of these structures provide energy absorption and decreased weight. Often the material have a rigid exterior covering the foamed interior. Synthetic foams from biological materials, such as soy, wheat gluten, and cellulose, are also called biofoams or biobased foams. Biobased foams often mimic the cellular structure of wood and they are being used in packaging and insulation as substitutes for polystyrene or polyurethane. These porous, lightweight materials typically manufactured using cellulose fibers dispersed in a foaming agent or gel such as cellulose ester, or methyl cellulose. The biobased foams should be recyclable with cardboard. Cellulose foams exhibit antimicrobial properties, mechanical anisotropy, and high thermal insulation. Some alternatives are using wheat gluten for the gel formation in order to produce flame-retardant materials. Other bio-foams used starch, soy, gluten, polylactic acid (PLA) or polyglycol alginate (PGA) as their base material

Synonyms and Related Terms

biobased foam; bio-based foam; biodegradable foam; organic foam; natural foam; cellulose foam; biofoam; starch foam; methyl cellulose foam; foam-formed biocomposites; PLA foam

Commercial products: BioFoam []; Green Cell foam []; Woamy []


  • Packaging; shipping
  • Thermal insulation
  • Biomedical implants


  • Loose structural integrity with age
  • Some dissolve in water

Resources and Citations

  • Miranda-Valdez, I.Y., Coffeng, S., Zhou, Y. et al. Foam-formed biocomposites based on cellulose products and lignin. Cellulose 30, 2253–2266 (2023). link
  • Qiong Wu, Richard L. Andersson, Tim Holgate, Eva Johansson,c Ulf W. Gedde, Richard T. Olsson and Mikael S. Hedenqvist, J. Mater. Chem. A, 2014,2,
  • Wikipedia: [Biofoam] (accessed June 2024)
  • J. Nilsen-Nygaard, M. Hattrem, Magnus, K. Draget, Kurt, "Propylene glycol alginate (PGA) gelled foams: A systematic study of surface activity and gelling properties as a function of degree of esterification", Food Hydrocolloids, 57, 2016.
  • Green Building Advisor: [Plant Based Foams on the Horizon] Jan. 2023