Tiny spheres of polymer with an even tinier amount of hydrocarbons embedded within. When heated they expand to several time their size.As heating occurs the hydrocarbons inside combust, momentarily softening the plastic sphere and expanding it to about four times it’s original size. This growth is often used to make plastics lighter during injection moulding as the material effectively creates small hollows in the plastic.However it has a not unpleasant springy texture and has been used to make braille paper, which allows bumps to form when it is heated.

Features

  • Grows to four time original size.
  • Can be embedded in paper and other flat materials to create textured surfaces.
  • Expands even under pressure
  • Can expand even when submerged in liquids.

Constraints

  • One use only
  • Use of hydrocarbons makes substance flammable.
  • Toxic if inhaled in large quantities.

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Bubbles in a sample of plastic produced with the Expancel microspheres

Manufacture & Fabrication

Available as a fine powder from Expancel group. Can be bound in glue or in tiny sachets to produce expansion. While in glue or some other holding material can be woven into textiles or other materials.

Durability & Sustainability

Expancel micro beads are not very durable and will quickly abrade or crumple under pressure. The use of hydrocarbons is non renewable especially as the tiny spots of fuel can only be used once and the change in shape is permanent though they can potentially be recycled for the plastic they contain.

Find out more at Expancel

Here’s their marketing video

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