feedstocks used to manufacture polymers are rapidly emerging, leading to
significant potential for replacement of oil-based materials.
According to the United Soybean Board, a U.S.-farmer-led organization,
these new soy-based products have been recently introduced:
Seal - soy-based canned insulating foams being sold at hardware stores, from
31325-00 - unsaturated polyester resin for composites, from Reichhold Chemical
- soy-based natural oil polyols used to make bedding foams for Simmons
Bedding's Natural Care Collection, from Dow Polyurethanes
- soyFoam for seats/headrests/armrests in the 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe, Sonata
sedan and the 2009 Kia Amanti sedan, from Lear. Lear will also supply General
Motors with Soy foam for its trucks and SUVs as well as Ford for the seats in
the Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKE, from Lear
Bee - soy-based polyols for use in Chromcraft molded-furniture seating foams,
from MCPU Polymer Engineering
- a mattress product line named Equilibrio Natural Ecoflex that uses foam based
on Dow Chemical's Renuva Natural Oil Polyols in the comfort layers of the
mattresses, from foam and mattress manufacturer Ecoflex
Comfort - sandals containing Renuva Natural Oil Polyols in the polyurethane
sole, from shoe manufacturer Grupo Ravi and Wal-Mart.
vice chairman of the USB New Uses program and a soybean farmer in Delaware,
says: "To see this many products come to fruition year in and year out with the
help of the soybean checkoff is amazing."
U.S. soybean research and promotion program is known as the soybean checkoff.
There is a strong
trend away from using foodstuffs as a feedstock for bioplastics. But the USB says
not to worry. A USB study maintains that industrial demand for soybean oil for
biodiesel and soy-based products increases the supply of soybean meal, which
can be used to produce more food. Oil makes up just 18 percent of a soybean
while the remainder consists of protein-rich meal.
One of the
first efforts to develop a plastics market for soybean oil came from Thomas
Kurth, a formulator who discovered that a polyol precursor could be formulated
from crude soybean oil, refined to a precise specification for urethane use and
blended with additives to control the diisocyanate reactivity. He and a partner
founded Urethane Soy Systems Co. in 1998 and introduced a commercial product
called SoyOyl in 1999 at the Polyurethanes Expo in Orlando, FL.
A major collaborative
research project in 2000 to commercialize soy-based polyols on a broad level
stalled because the material had a rancid odor, poor compression set and poor
formulation chemist at Ford named Christine Perry made hundreds of different
formulations in an effort to solve the problems. After two years, she succeeded
became the world leader in
implementation of the technology. Ford is now expanding use of soy-based
materials in all automotive foam applications.
built a $22-million bio-based polyols manufacturing plant in Chicago in 2008,
and expanded production capabilities at a site in Brazil in 2007. Cargill also
opened a 19,000-ft2
R&D site for polyols in Plymouth, MN.
major player is Bayer, the company that first invented polyurethanes when it
was part of IG Farben in 1937. Bayer has several commercial applications in the
field, and is now seeking to take the technology one step further, tapping
waste carbon dioxide as a feedstock.
from Bayer MaterialScience and Bayer Technology Services are working with RWE
Power AG, Germany's largest utility, and Aachen University on use of carbon
dioxide to produce polyols in what they call the "Dream Production" project. A
kilogram-scale pilot plant is being built at Chempark Leverkusen.
called Biobased Technologies is building capacity to produce polyols from
biological feedstocks in Chang Zhou City, China.
companies are using, or planning to use feedstocks other than soy oil because
they can impart different mechanical properties and due to fears that soy
prices could rise too high.
Chemical, for example, also uses rapeseed oil as a feedstock to produce polyols
in plants in Texas and elsewhere.
Polyols can also
be made from castor bean, Euphorbia lagascae, sunflower and linseed. Flexible
foam made by Metzeler Schaum GmbH of Germany uses a polyol derived from