Put your head against your car’s comfortable head rest and you may be resting against a pile of soy plants. The tier-one auto supplier, Lear Corp., has developed SoyFoam, a soybean oil-based flexible foam material for automotive interior applications, including the stuffing in the arm and head rests. SoyFoam has a lower environmental impact than traditional non-renewable petroleum-based foam, since it is 24 percent renewable.
Ford Motor Co. is the first automaker to show interest in Lear’s SoyFoam. In 2004, Ford partnered with Lear to commercialize soy applications with initial work concentrating on the molding of headrest and armrest components.
Lear is also collaborating on SoyFoam development with the United Soy Board’s New Uses Committee (a group of 64 farmers and agricultural industry leaders), as well as Urethane Soy Systems Co., Bayer Corp. and Renosol Corp.
Lear representatives say their “research and testing has proven that SoyFoam solutions will withstand a mass-production environment and meet or exceed performance requirements” of traditional materials.