Polyols are key ingredients in flexible polyurethane foams, used in furniture and bedding. Historically, polyurethane has been made from petrochemical polyols. The idea of replacing these polyols with biobased polyols is not new, but the poor performance, color, quality, consistency, and odor of earlier biobased polyols restricted them to limited markets. Previous biobased polyols also suffer from poor chemical reactivity, resulting in foam with inferior properties. Several new developments by various companies have helped overcome these shortcomings.
Cargill has successfully developed biobased polyols for several polyurethane applications, including flexible foams, which are the most technically challenging. Cargill makes BiOH™ polyols by converting the carbon–carbon double bonds in unsaturated vegetable oils to epoxide derivatives and then further converting these derivatives to polyols using mild temperature and ambient pressure. These polyols provide excellent reactivity and high levels of incorporation leading to high-performing polyurethane foams. These foams set a new standard for consistent quality with low odor and color. Foams containing these polyols retain their white color longer without ultraviolet stabilizers. They also are superior to foams containing only petroleum-based polyols in standard tests.
In large slabstock foams, such as those used in furniture and bedding, BiOH 5000 polyol provides a wide processing window, improved comfort factor, and reduced variations in density and load-bearing capacity. In molded foams such as automotive seating and headrests, BiOH 2100 polyol can enhance load-bearing or hardness properties relative to conventional polyols. Their use reduces the environmental footprint relative to today's conventional polyols for polyurethane production. These polyols harvest carbon that plants remove from the air during photosynthesis. All of the carbon in BiOH™ polyols is recently fixed. In conventional polyols, the carbon is petroleum-based. Replacing petroleum-based polyols with these polyols cuts total energy use by 23% including a 61% reduction in nonrenewable energy use, leading to a 36% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. For each million lb of BiOH™ polyol used in place of petroleum-based polyols, about 700,000 lbs (2,200 barrels) of crude oil are saved, thereby reducing the dependence on petroleum. These polyols diversify the industry's supply options and help mitigate the effects of uncertainty and volatility of petroleum supply and pricing. Cargill is the first company to commercialize biobased polyols on a large scale in the flexible foam market. Formulators can now use biobased polyols in flexible foam without compromising product performance.
Croda's 100% bio-based Priplast polyester polyols help meet the growing market demand for high performance, 100% renewable building blocks for coatings and adhesives. These polyols have been developed with 100% renewable carbon content (ASTM D6866), are highly renewable. These products can help meet the positive environmental image of sportswear and consumer electronics, along with the renewability and lightweight targets in the transportation industry. They offer:
Durability, a unique combination of thermo-oxidative, UV and hydrolysis resistance
Excellent moisture protection barrier
Flexibility also at low temperatures
Adhesion to a wide range of substrates, including low polarity plastics
Excellent flow properties with efficient substrate wetting
100% renewable content
Priplast 3238 is a fully amorphous, di-functional polyol created especially for reactive PU applications. Priplast 3293 is a semi-crystalline type for higher modulus and strength reactive PU adhesives and is well-suited for PUDs. Priplast 3286 is amorphous with a higher functionality for crosslinked 2K systems. Further grades are under development. These 100% bio-based Priplast grades result as well in PU adhesives with good durability. Moisture repellency and flexibilities are obtained with a rubber-like behavior that lacks strain-hardening.
Myriant's bio-succinic acid can be used to produce polyester polyols with renewable content up to 100%, that are comparable in performance to adipic acid polyols, and that, long term, have more price stability than polyols derived from petroleum. Using succinic acid polyols offers formulators renewable content at a competitive, stable long term price. Myriant has produced a line of developmental polyester polyols.
The market for soy-based polyurethanes continues to expand as manufacturers look for alternatives to high-priced petrochemicals. Soy polyols perform like their petrochemical counterparts and enable manufacturers to increase the sustainability of end products without sacrificing performance. In some cases, products are even enhanced with lighter weight, more strength and better durability. BioBased Technologies® developed its first Agrol soy-based polyol in 2005. The following year Agrol was named a P2 Awardee by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because the innovative chemistry behind the product helps advance pollution prevention and other environmental goals. It comes in multiple functionalities that enable manufacturers to formulate applications ranging from flexible to case to rigid foams. These soy-based polyols contain no microfibers and have a high R-value. As a result, products containing Agrol improve health conditions for consumers and help to create more comfortable living environments. They also help product users save money with better energy efficiency and improved durability, and they are environmentally responsible. Recently BioBased Technologies took the next step in the evolution of soy-based polyols with the introduction of Agrol Prime series. The latest additions to the Agrol line all have primary hydroxyl functionality, which will allow them to be used at higher levels than current Agrol polyols. The versatile Agrol Prime series can be used in slabstock foam, molded foam, adhesives and coatings. Agrol 1.7 AO+ and Agrol 3.0 AO+ are low-volatile-organic-compound (VOC) polyols with antioxidants added to the formulation for use in slabstock foam.
Dow Polyurethanes has engineered a bio-based polyol that does not compromise performance. Bio-based polyols made with RENUVA™ Renewable Resource Technology dispel unwanted odors and address the needs of the industry by offering excellent performance and high levels of renewable content. The Technology breaks down natural oil and functionalizes it, then uses a distinct process to polymerize the molecules into designed polyols with control of functionality and molecular weight for greater quality and consistency. The technology is giving birth to an enhanced generation of greener performance-based, polyols. According to life-cycle analysis, the manufacturing of bio-based polyols with RENUVA™ Technology is greenhouse gas neutral and uses 60% fewer fossil fuel resources than the manufacturing of conventional polyols. Using these bio-based polyols helps reduce impact on the environment. Dow's tailor-made, bio-based polyols offer benefits that cover numerous applications within the adhesives and sealants marketplace. Key among these are:
• Improved water resistance
• Excellent chemical resistance
• Ease of application
• Good adhesion on a variety
• High flexibility
Additionally, bio-based polyols made via this revolutionary process have virtually no odor, and their low viscosity reduces the need for solvents, resulting in a reduction in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in your applications. Advantages high levels of renewable content, reduced environmental impact, and exceptional product performance can also be added.
The green & bio polyol market worth US$3,077 mln for a consumption base of 1,104 Kilotons by 2018, as per MarketsandMarkets. North America is currently the largest consumer of green & bio polyols. USA is the largest consumer in North America. Corn and Soybean are primarily used as feedstock to produce bio-based polyols in North America. Market demand is driven from end user industries such as automotive, packaging and furniture. The automotive industry in North America is the largest consumer of green & bio polyols. Almost 70% vehicles manufactured by Ford Motor Company in North America contained seat components that use green & bio polyols. Cargill Inc. (USA), The DOW Chemical Company (USA), Johnson Controls Inc. (USA), etc are among the largest manufacturers in north America. Polyurethane rigid foams are currently the biggest application, with consumption is expected to increase from 456.8 kilotons by 2018. Polyurethane rigid foams have insulating properties; thus, making them appropriate for use in applications such as refrigeration, packaging, construction, etc. The environmental benefits of rigid polyurethane foam are significant, and include increasing energy efficiency and reductions in construction costs, and reducing overall project costs. Asia-Pacific is currently the fastest growing consumer of green & bio polyol based polyurethane rigid foams.