Styrofoam is a brand name for Polystyrene Thermal Insulation material (sometimes referred to as “extruded polystyrene foam”). It is a trademark of Dow Chemical and among the most popular plastics in use today. Styrofoam is manufactured in blue sheet foam. It is mostly used in building materials and pipe insulation. It was invented in during World War II by Ray McIntire as he sought to create a flexible electrical insulator. It is usually supplied to manufacturers in form of small foam beads. It can be molded and processed to fit different purposes. The word Styrofoam is inappropriately used in Canada and the United States to refer to expanded polystyrene foam such as cushioning material in packaging, coolers, and disposable coffee cups. These are made of expanded polystyrene beads, and not from the extruded polystyrene normally used in Styrofoam insulation. There is also a different form of Styrofoam used in craft applications which is green and white in color.
The Properties of Styrofoam
Styrofoam’s chemical representation comprises of a hydrocarbon chain linked with a phenol group to every single carbon group. Styrofoam’s chemical equation has a (Ph) with a C6H5 ring.
Polystyrene’s density is 1050kg/m3 as compared to water which has a density of 1000kg/m3. Although it is denser than water, polystyrene floats and doesn’t sink. It can break down when combined with a strong acid.
Polymer and Thermoplastic
A polymer is a Styrofoam molecule. It is an extensive chain of recurring atoms through the connection of many molecules (monomers) derived from petroleum. Styrofoam is also a thermoplastic as it hardens when cooled and softens when heated. As a liquid, it can be easily molded which makes it suitable for various applications in different industries.
Shock Absorber and Lightweight
Styrofoam is an excellent shock absorber and extremely lightweight. It is composed of approximately 90 percent air. This is why expanded polystyrene is very popular as a cushioning material. Styrofoam is easy to transport as its shock-absorbing features keep it well protected from harm.
It is a superb insulator that limits thermal transfer. This major aspect makes it a top insulating material as it effectively maintains a comfortable temperature indoors, regardless of the weather conditions outdoors.
The Uses of Styrofoam in Buildings
Styrofoam is used by many builders as an insulating material. It has a closed cell structure which ensures its insulation has a high R-value (a material’s ability to conduct heat). The more value a material has, the more resistance it has to conducting heat. When a building is properly insulated, heat is not transferred out of a building or into it which reduces drafts and decreases cooling and heating costs. Styrofoam is used to insulate basement walls, underground walls, and above ground walls as it significantly reduces energy loss. It is cut into sheets that are attached to a building’s frame or installed in its outer foundation walls. The foam is afterwards covered with certain material to create a specific look, such as marble, stone, or stucco. Styrofoam is also used in insulating floors and roofs. On roofs, it is cut and positioned to provide the proper drainage. Plywood or other materials are placed over Styrofoam after it has been laid on ceiling material. Afterwards, shingles can be installed on top. Styrofoam is used on floors as it is an excellent load-bearing material for different types of floors. Its closed cell structure makes it very rigid and highly resistant to compression in load-bearing applications. Styrofoam is also used in commercial and industrial piping applications. It is used in low-temperature systems to prevent surface condensation and to minimize heat gain. It retains its main insulating properties in environments with high-moisture conditions, high humidity and in low-temperature applications.
Styrofoam’s insulation structure leaves virtually no vacant space between the cells which makes it waterproof and strong. It has a natural resistance to water vapor, snow, and rain and retains its primary physical integrity and insulation performance in exposed conditions for a long time. Since the material is resistant to water, mold and mildew cannot grow on its surface.
Styrofoam has a low susceptibility to rot hence fungal and mold growth and reduced. The boards are odorless, clean and unaffected by dust. This ensures that a structure’s integrity is maintained and the occupants stay in a hygienic environment.