Polystyrene foam is a type of plastic made from petroleum-based hydrocarbon particles infused with air. This material can be extruded or molded to form shipping and packing products, food storage containers, or even building insulation. The manufacturing process for making this foam gives this material a uniform, consistent cell structure that makes it very rigid and strong. In addition to its strength and stability, polystyrene foam provides a number of additional advantages, including effective insulating properties, natural resistance to moisture, and the ability to absorb shock or impacts.
One of the primary advantages to this material is its high strength-to-weight ratio. Polystyrene foam is very durable, yet consists primarily of air, resulting in a very low weight. Its light weight and airy consistency allows this material to be easily shaped or molded to form a variety of products. It can be formed into custom packaging or shipping containers, or cut to fit wall cavities on a construction site. Even sheets of polystyrene foam can be cut using only a basic utility knife rather than complex tools or saws.
The numerous air cavities within polystyrene foam also give it natural shock absorption abilities. This makes this material an effective option for protecting fragile electronics during shipping. Many manufacturers create custom packing containers that reduce the risk of damage to electronics and other gear, and can absorb shock or impacts if the object is dropped during transport. This material is also used to create meat-packing trays and egg crates due to its ability to protect these items from damage.
Polystyrene foam also is highly moisture resistant. When used for packing and shipping, this foam protects objects from rain and other sources of moisture. It can be used to hold food or beverages, and won't leak or penetrate the walls of the container. When used as building insulation, the moisture resistance of this foam gives it many advantages over traditional fiberglass insulation. Unlike fiberglass, foam won't rot, mildew, or otherwise lose its effectiveness if exposed to moisture.
Another major advantage associated with polystyrene foam is its ability to act as an effective insulator. When used in food storage, this foam keeps hot foods hot and cold foods cold as they are transported from a restaurant to the home. This foam may also be used to insulate a freezer or refrigerator. When used as building insulation, this material offers a much higher level of thermal resistance than standard fiberglass blankets or batts. This helps to maximize the energy efficiency of the structure and keep energy bills as low as possible.