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Unusual Uses for Cork

Apr 24, 2008
The most common use for cork remains as a means of capping wine bottles. There are now modern alternatives for this service, such as plastic stoppers, but traditional cork stoppers remain the most popular choice for wine purposes. In fact, it has been reported that cork accounts for only 15% of cork usage by weight, but 66% by revenue. However, cork is not a one trick pony. It can be used for some very interesting things outside of a wine bottle.

Cork is a very unusual material in that its cells are aligned in a honeycomb type of structure and filled with air, making it very compressible and elastic. When pressed, cork will return to its original shape. This property makes it useful for many purposes in industry and the arts.

One of the more common industry uses for cork is in the creation of low temperature insulation, which is used to insulate things like refrigeration pipes and water coolers. To make the insulation material, the cork is ground up, molded, and baked into the desired shape.

Cork is used in rockets. It has a high degree of fire resistance, also making it a good insulation material for high temperature environments. NASA uses cork in rockets to prevent rocket fuel from getting too hot during ignition.

Cork is a wonderful material for flooring that is available in many colors and patterns. Cork is durable and can be installed on almost any floor. It provides excellent insulation for both thermal and acoustic purposes. Cork flooring is also easy to keep clean, requiring only vacuuming or damp mopping. However, one caveat is that since cork is a substance that expands and contracts, it is important that the humidity level in the building containing the cork flooring be kept within a controlled range.

Cork is hypoallergenic, which makes it useful for anything that comes in contact with human skin. For instance, a company in Canada makes a computer mouse pad out of cork. Given that a computer operator's hand spends a lot of time on the mouse pad, this is an excellent option for someone with sensitive skin.

In 2002, American John Pollack and his partner Garth Goldstein made international news by successfully navigating a boat down the Douro River in Portugal that was made entirely of cork stoppers. The project demonstrated yet another interesting and unusual use for cork, even without manufacturing it into any kind of particular end product.

There has been concern in recent years about wineries switching away from cork. The reason for the shift is that a cork stopper can on occasion ruin the taste of wine. Rather than being a good environmental move, it is argued that the shift away from cork will be damaging to the environment. The reason is that without wineries using cork, the demand for cork would fall to the point that cork forests would stop being maintained or replaced altogether with more profitable products. Therefore, coming up with new and innovative uses for cork may be critical to its future.
About the Author
For more information about cork or cork flooring, visit WorldFloorsDirect.com, a company specializing in wood flooring that originates from managed sustainable forests.
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