The Pearls of Kaneka

				Cushioning material protects breakable things from shocks. Fresh fish cartons for carrying fish for long distances while keeping them fresh. Instant noodle cups and coffee cups that let you have piping hot things by adding hot water, and many others…. The material all these are made from is expanded polystyrene, a common plastic found in many things around us. But do you know what percentage by volume of this expanded polystyrene is made of air?
				Is it 30%? 50%? Or perhaps 70%? In fact, about 98% of it is made of air! So that means that if you had a piece of expanded polystyrene as big as yourself, you could lift it easily.
				This expanded polystyrene is made from hard white plastic beads that feel like pearls. When steam is applied to these beads, something really strange happens! They get bigger and bigger right before your eyes, turning into fluffy plastic, just like popcorn. Then when we take these fluffy bits of plastic and squeeze them together in a mold, we end up with our familiar expanded polystyrene. 
				You can tell if you magnify this expanded polystyrene, but it is made up of lots of little bubbles, about 1 mm in size, like a honeycomb. Each one of these tiny bubbles is a cell of air, and when we get thousands and thousands of them together, we end up with superb cushioning or heat insulation properties. 
				It has been fifty years since Kaneka first showed the world the expandable polystyrene raw material we called “Kanepearl”. This was in 1965. When it was first developed, we still had a tough road ahead, with problems in getting the structures we wanted, or with patent disputes. But our development staff made a concerted effort to overcome all these issues, and now we have reached a quality level we can boast to the world.
				Kaneka’s expanded polystyrene has expanded its fields of application beyond its original scope, seeing use in transport infrastructure such as road foundations and tunnel roofs, and in many other areas. We hope to keep squeezing together a whole lot of science technologies to solidly support society. That desire will remain in our hearts as we continue with even further research and development.

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