University of Göttingen: Ecological house construction- panels and walls made of popcorn

Affordable housing made from environmentally friendly and CO2-neutral building material: scientists at the University of Göttingen have developed a process for producing panels from hemp, flax and popcorn granules. The great advantage of this granulate is that it is a bio-based, environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to the petroleum-based or gypsum-based products previously used in industry. The material has excellent insulating properties and offers good fire protection. The University of Göttingen has concluded an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with the company Smarter Habitat for its commercial use.

Sustainable building is a key international issue in view of the shortage of housing, rising construction prices and the high levels of air pollution caused by cement production and the construction industry. Especially in drywall construction, the use of plasterboard dominates with all its disadvantages: dirt during installation, problems with moisture, no possibility of recycling and costly disposal as construction waste.

The working group “Chemie und Verfahrenstechnik von Verbundwerkstoffen” (Chemistry and Process Engineering of Composite Materials) at the Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology at the University of Göttingen has been conducting research in the field of renewable raw materials for years. As a composite material with laminates made of hemp and flax, the PU foam previously used for panels is to be replaced in the future by the sustainable and high-performance product made of popcorn. Smarter Habitat intends to use it to produce panels for drywall and other applications, including load-bearing exterior walls, and market them under the name “Ecohab”. In addition to its excellent physical properties, the material is reusable, recyclable and compostable.

“With this new process, which is modeled on the plastics industry, pure natural products can now be used to cost-effectively produce panels for many areas of industrial-scale construction,” explains the head of the research group, Professor Alireza Kharazipour.

Datty Ruth, founder and CEO of Smarter Habitat adds, “We will use all our creativity to drive a much-needed paradigm shift in the construction industry with this circular material. This building material is a milestone for the construction industry and embodies the zeitgeist in terms of environmental goals like no other new product.”

The licence agreement between the University and Smarter Habitat was brokered by MBM ScienceBridge GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Göttingen Public Law Foundation. The agency acts for a total of nine universities and scientific institutions in Lower Saxony: It examines scientific inventions for the possibility of a patent application and for economic potential. It then takes care of worldwide marketing and negotiates, supervises and monitors licensing agreements. The current portfolio includes projects from the fields of bio-medicine, medical technology, metrology, chemistry, physics, forestry and agricultural sciences.