Polyurethanes 2016-12-06T05:35:21+00:00


Seats in polyurethane foam, designed by Gaetano Pesce, made by C&B, Italy, 1969 Rigid pu chair shell and chairs
Wood effect rigid pu panel PU mallet "Thumpa" 1990s

Polyurethanes (PU) are one of the most versatile of all polymer families.  The plastics products derived from them appear everywhere from soft flexible foams through fibres, fabrics and rubbers to hard durable coatings.

PU is often based on addition reactions of polyisocyanates and polyols, although other co-reactants can be used.  Selection of functionality of reactants and processing conditions enables precise formation of this huge range of products.

Otto Bayer patented PU adhesives and elastomer types in 1937 whereby improved tyre cord bonding could be achieved.  Improved cast elastomers, fibre and plastic applications followed, e.g. I. G. Farben Industrie 1941 and Bayer 1947.  The demand for domestic and industrial applications in the 1960s led to huge production of flexible foams in furniture, rigid foams for insulation and sandwich panel construction.  ‘Wet-look’ apparel provided fashion emphasis also.

Further detailed developments in formulation and applications in later years provided superior spray foam, self-skinned foam, powder and stove finishing coatings, etc.  Of particular note were reaction injection moulding RIM) and ability to produce controlled reinforced structures RRIM) for engineering applications. Also  significant was the ability to produce controlled block copolymer thermoplastic elastomers of which Lycra (Du Pont) is notable in athletic clothing.

PU in its great variety has benefit in everyday life ranging from soft foams to rollers, footwear and tyre treads, and to durable ceramic like coatings in the aerospace, marine and chemical industries.