The Role of Chemistry in History

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Entries Tagged as 'Polyurethane'

What’s the Controversy?

May 1st, 2008 · Comments Off on What’s the Controversy?

Polyurethane | History of Polyurethane | Chemistry of Polyurethane Polyurethane Affects History | What’s the Controversy? 

JMole Image:


 Despite Polyurethane’s plethora of uses, it has not completely escaped controversary. 

Here’s an examples:

– In 2004, Massachusetts State Representative Michael Connolly introduced a bill to the Massachusetts State Legislature proposing a ban on the use of all polyurethane based materials in public buildings (including the replacement of existing material) in reaction to the Station Nightclub fire in Warwick, RI, which occurred when a pyrotechnics show ignited the nightclub’s flammable sound-proof polyurethane foam.

-The Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, fearing an industry wide backlash, met with Rep. Connolly and testified before the Massachusetts State Legislature to attest to the numerous beneficial uses of polyurethane building materials. Together they addressed Connolly’s concerns by eastablishing science-based standards for the proper use of acounstic materials in public places as well as a fire safety advisory commitee for the incorporation of flame-retardent material into state building codes.

-As a result of these measures, the bill was dropped.


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Categories: Polyurethane

Polyurethane Affects History

May 1st, 2008 · Comments Off on Polyurethane Affects History

Polyurethane | History of Polyurethane | Chemistry of Polyurethane Polyurethane Affects History | What’s the Controversy? 

Polyurethane Affects History – Industrial Uses

The Polyurethane Industry is a a $41 billion enterprise and a key element of the U.S. economy.  The Polyurethane Industry employs more than 263,000 Americans, operates in over 850 locations in the U.S., and helps create nearly 5 jobs for each job in the polyurethanes industry.

Industrial Uses:

Application Amount of polyurethane used(millions of pounds) Percentage of total
Building & Construction 1,459 26.8%
Transportation 1,298 23.8%
Furniture & Bedding 1,127 20.7%
Appliances 278 5.1%
Packaging 251 4.6%
Textiles, Fibers & Apparel 181 3.3%
Machinery & Foundry 178 3.3%
Electronics 75 1.4%
Footwear 39 0.7%
Other uses 558 10.2%
Total 5,444 100.0%

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Categories: Polyurethane

Chemistry of Polyurethane

May 1st, 2008 · Comments Off on Chemistry of Polyurethane

Polyurethane | History of Polyurethane | Chemistry of Polyurethane Polyurethane Affects History | What’s the Controversy?  


 or more generally…


-Polyurethanes are in the class of compounds called reaction polymers, which includes epoxies, polyesters, and phenolics.

– A Urethane Linkage is created  by reacting an isocyanate group, -N=C=O, with a hydroxal (alcohol) group, -OH.

-Polyurethanes are produced by the polyaddition reaction of a polyisocyanate with a polyalcohol (polyol) in the presence of a catalyst and other additives.

– In the Polyurethane industry the isocyanate group is referred to as the A-Side, while the blend of polyols and other additives are referred to as the B-Side.

-The chemicals in the B-Side give each specific polyurethane its characteristics; the additions of cross extenders, chain linkers, surfactants, blowing agents, flame retardents, fillers and pigments affect the polyurethane compound created. 





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Categories: Polyurethane

History of Polyurethane

May 1st, 2008 · 30 Comments

Polyurethane | History of Polyurethane | Chemistry of Polyurethane | Polyurethane Affects History | What’s the Controversy?

History of Polyurethane

-First developed by Dr. Otto Bayer in 1937 at the I.G. Farben Laboratories, a subdivision of Bayer Corporation, in Leverkusen, Germany.

-Realized they could create new materials with special characteristics by applying the principle of polyaddition to liquid diisocyanates and existing polyester and polyether diols.

-Part of a larger governement sponsored scientific and technological movement during WWII to create cheap, mass-producable synthetic plastics and rubbers.

-The origin of polyurethane dates back to the beginning of World War II where it is was first developed as a replacement for rubber. The versatility of this new organic polymer and its ability to substitute for scarce materials, spurred numerous applications. During World War II, polyurethane coatings were used for the impregnation of paper and the manufacture of mustard gas resistant garments, high-gloss airplane finishes and chemical and corrosion resistant coatings to protect metal, wood and masonry.

-First commercially available polyurethane was introduced by DuPont Corporation in 1948, material was a rigid foam used in insulation.

-Dow Chemical, BASF, and Mobay Corporation in the following year, 1949, introduced synthetic rubber, polyurethane materials.

-Over the 1960s, through the addition of various additives, chemists were able to develop more flexibile foam polyurethanes, as well as more rigid, hard plastics.

-First all plastic car (made from polyurethanes..!) introduced in 1969 by Bayer AG Corporation in Dusseldorf, Germany.

-Pontiac introduced the first all plastic car in the United States in 1983 using PU materials.

-Increasing use over the 1980s as rising energy costs made it desirable to decrease use of PVC, one of the most common synthetic building materials in the world.

-Development in the 1990s focused on Polyurethane’s potential as a spray sealant. Polyurethane sealants are desriable because of their cheap, easy application, fast drying time, ability to bind to concrete and steel surfaces, and their impermeability.

-Beginning in the early 2000s, industry efforts to become more environmentally friendly created polyurethanes made from vegetable oil polyols, most notably a soy-based polyurethane used by Ford Motor Company in recent automobile interiors (dashboards, side-panels, etc.).


Timeline of Polyurethane Applications

Dr. Otto Bayer discovers the basic polyurethane chemistry. I.G. Farben (Bayer) patents the process

Rigid foam first introduced for aircraft

Adhesive between rubber, metal and glass

First insulation application – a beer barrel

Vulcanized rollable polyurethane rubber

Shoe soles – Synthetic leather

Foam cushions

Introduction of Spandex fiber

Steel sandwich building panels

Integral skin for armrests and shoe soles

Automobile bumpers

Imitation wood
Orthopedics and medical applications

Spray building insulation


Energy absorbing foams for passenger safety

Thin wall medical hoses i.e. catheters

Bicycle tires

Automobile tires

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Categories: Polyurethane


May 1st, 2008 · Comments Off on Polyurethane

Polyurethane | History of Polyurethane | Chemistry of Polyurethane | Polyurethane Affects History | What’s the Controversy?

An Introduction to Polyurethane

-Polyurethanes are a class of polymers consisting of organic chains joined by urethane links

-Commonly abbreviated, PU

-Commonly (and misleadingly!) referred to as “urethane”, a mistake since polyurethane’s are different than the actual compound Urethane.

-Developed as a wide-range of materials: low- and high-density foams; soft, flexible solids (like rubber); and firm, rigid plastics.

-Used in everything from shoe soles, golf balls, and watch bands, to automobiles, airplanes, electronics, and even sealants and varnishes.

One of it’s many Uses:

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Categories: Polyurethane