Polyurethanes are materials that make our lives more comfortable. They can take many forms, as outlined below:
Polyurethane foam is widely used in mattresses for both comfort and support. It is long-lasting and easy to work with, making it popular with designers and manufacturers. Foam for furniture and bedding has an open cellular structure, allowing good ventilation and heat transfer. These are all characteristics that contribute to the overall comfort of a polyurethane mattress.
More information about how polyurethanes are used in mattresses.
Most soft furnishings found in people’s homes contain polyurethanes. The sense of comfort and relaxation felt when sinking into a sofa at the end of a long day is all thanks to polyurethane foams. Because of their resilience, durability, strength and comfort, polyurethane foams are also found in most office furniture, as well as theatre and auditorium seating.
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Because they are lightweight and resilient, polyurethanes are found in a variety of clothing. Whether in footwear, where they are used to make water-resistant soles or lightweight uppers, or jackets, where they provide optimal protection from the elements, polyurethanes add to our general sense of comfort in the clothes we wear.
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Polyurethane carpet underlay adds to the comfort of carpets. Not only does it serve to reduce noise levels and heat loss by cushioning noise and acting as a heat insulator, it also makes the carpet feel softer and decreases wear and tear by absorbing friction, which would otherwise cause the carpet to deteriorate.
Most cars and lorries have polyurethanes in their seat cushions and interiors, which reduce vibrations and make travelling a much more comfortable experience for the driver and passengers. The bodies of cars often contain polyurethanes to insulate them from the noise and heat of the engine and traffic, while polyurethanes in bumpers help to absorb the impact of accidents. The lightweight nature of polyurethane foam leads to overall weight reduction and associated greater fuel efficiency.
Learn more about how polyurethanes are used in transport.
Have you ever wondered why, when riding a train, you hear that cluttering and pervasive sound? Well, just like a lot of things in our lives, railroads are not perfect. They have irregularities, which occur due to a set of factors, like wheel and track geometry, distance between joints, and material resistance. Situation can be exaggerated by heavy tear and wear, which is intensified by increased carriages over the years. Especially distressing is when rail track is crossing densely populated urban areas, which are becoming more common train routes. Noise pollution, caused by passing trains, increase annoyance, aggression, hypertension and stress levels.
There are several ways of reducing noise pollution caused by rail track irregularities. The best way is to “smoother” irregularities of the track with the help of flexible mats and pads. These pads are laid between rails and baseplates which connect rail to the sleeper. Good example of this type of system is Edilon TRACKELAST® created by edilon)(sedra. Fifty years ago, edilon)(sedra started producing special resilient pads, which became a standard feature of urban transport tracks over time.
Increased usage and weight of carriage has put more pressure on railroads and smothering pads. The solution was found in the polyurethane foam, which is commonly used in automotive and construction sectors. edilon)(sedra and Huntsman, one of the leading producers of polyurethanes, started a collaboration which resulted in creating ACOUSTIFLEX®V. New PU foam proved to be a perfect complement for Edilon TRACKELAST®. Their joint usage virtually eliminates noise pollution. In addition, it increases the lifetime of railways which leads to reduced maintenance costs for both tracks, and trains.
Originally, ACOUSTIFLEX®V has been used in cars as a light and environmentally friendly sound absorber. Its usage in railroad tracks has been another confirmation of polyurethanes’ versatility and commitment to comfort. ACOUSTIFLEX®V has already proven itself as a highly practical, environmentally friendly and effective material in a range of rail projects from Madrid to Warsaw and from Helsinki to Kumamoto.
Just another example of how polyurethanes contribute to improving lives and protecting the planet in new ways every day.
Bayer MaterialScience's Italian polyurethane systems house BaySystems Italia offers three ranges for the footwear industry, Bayflex® Safety, Active and Fashion. These three ranges enable the production of soles that cover a broad spectrum of production requirements, such as a wide density range. Following a successful testing and trial period, this innovative system for the production of midsoles that are up to 15 percent lighter is progressing by leaps and bounds with customers in the safety sector. With its savings potential, outstanding processing properties and quality, this system offers customers increased comfort and gives the processors a crucial edge over the competition.
Another successful application of polyurethanes is a new class of polyester-based materials marked by their high resistance to hydrolysis. This enables the production of very long-life soles, which are in particular demand for safety shoes, also available in an electrostatic discharge (ESD) version that is very important for safety shoes in the electronics and automotive industries.
Polyurethane is used in manufacturing inserts and midsoles that adapt perfectly to the shape of the foot and are extremely lightweight, making the shoes very comfortable to wear. One of the main advantages of the material is its versatility – the elasticity, hardness and density of the end product can be defined in such a way that they meet all relevant requirements.
One excellent example is the decision to dispense with using halogenated blowing agents and tin compounds in formulations for the production of polyurethane soles. The Easy Release system offers a further advantage in terms of environmental protection as its special formulation reduces the amount of release agents needed in the mould.
Proof that polyurethane, can be fashionable, comfortable, improve safety, and aid environmental protection.
Better dimensional and weather stability than wood, lighter than concrete Railroad builders are turning increasingly to polyurethane composite marketed under the name Eslon Neo Lumber FFU from SEKISUI CHEMICAL CO. LTD., Tokyo as the material of choice for manufacturing the ties or sleepers that are used to support railroad tracks. The material is noted for the far greater durability of the ties and the correspondingly lower lifecycle costs. In Tokyo, plastic ties have been in service for more than a quarter of a century. They have been laid, for example, under the track for the Shinkansen high-speed train, and the FFU (Fiber reinforced Foamed Urethane) polyurethane ties have now been premiered in Germany.
Railroad ties must be able to withstand high mechanical loads and must also be dimensionally stable and weather-resistant over a long period to comply with the conditions for safe rail operation and low maintenance costs. Frequent temperature changes, radiation and moisture start to affect wooden ties after a relatively short time, and repairing the wooden track involves a considerable amount of material, time, organization and cost. In comparison polyurethane ties have an estimated service life of at least 50 years. With considerably longer maintenance cycles and associated cost benefits for the railroad operator, individual ties can be replaced quickly and accurately, helping to lower construction costs even further.
The flexural strength of the polyurethane ties is also very much higher than that of wood, even after 15 years, the material is also suitable for the construction of high-speed tracks.
The polyurethane material looks like wood and combines all the positive properties of the natural product with those of a modern composite product. The polyurethane ties can be processed in the same way as timber, and compared with concrete, the polyurethane material weighs much less and boasts the reproducible evenness that is important with turnouts. The polyurethane ties are also very suitable for bridges due to their lightweight and they can be manufactured in virtually any desired length and cross-section up to a current maximum of 9.60 meters.
The ecological compatibility of the polyurethane ties is also an advantage. As a rule, ties that have already been in service can be reused, or can be recycled in the same way as the production scrap.
The polyurethane system based on long-fiber reinforced Baydur® 60 integral skin foam comes from Sumika Bayer Urethane Co., Ltd., the Japanese polyurethane systems house in Bayer MaterialScience's global BaySystems® network.
Polyurethane in railroad ties, increases durability, safety and decreases cost.
No more flat tires
The British company Greentyre, has developed and designed tires that aren't affected by sharp objects or long periods of inactivity. The tires are made of micro-cellular polyurethane foam based on a Bayflex® system from Bayer MaterialScience. Products made of this innovative material are longer-lasting and much lighter than solid rubber tires.
To manufacture the tires, the mould is filled with a liquid reaction mix before being rotated during the foaming process. This ensures that the material is distributed very evenly across the whole tire circumference, which means that the tires will run very smoothly.
The material is virtually solid at the tire's outer circumference, and its even surface makes for excellent rolling properties. Thanks to the tire's good aging and weathering resistance, it retains its true-running properties in the long term, even when it remains in one position under a heavy load for an extended period of time and becomes compressed on one side. And the high elasticity of the micro-cellular material ensures that the tire’s rolling resistance is almost as good as that of an air-filled tire.
However, this tire technology is not just useful for leisure activities and gardening – it is also ideal for wheelchairs. The Greentyre Company has designed a very special wheelchair for disabled people. One key feature of the sophisticated design concept is its modular structure, which enables users to choose from an array options to meet individual clinical need and the type of use. If required, the wheels can also be removed at the touch of a button. Additionally, the wheels are equipped with ergonomic hand rims also made of polyurethane. The special feature of these hand rims is that they do not get sharp edges through wear and are pleasantly warm to the touch. The wheelchairs’ adjustable arm rests are also padded with this polyurethane foam. It seems that the versatility of this elastomeric cellular material knows no bounds.
This is just another example of the ever increasing versatility of polyurethane.
The "Shadow" easy chair by Gaetano Pesce was one of the most eye-catching exhibits at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2007 in Milan. The special shape of the seat padding is created by encasing a life-size doll in polyurethane foam.
The easy chair's outer shape and high degree of comfort is down to Bayfit®, the flexible polyurethane foam system from Bayer MaterialScience. Back in the 1960s, Pesce designed his "Il Piede" seat in the shape of a human foot. This seat – and many other objects in the legendary UP series – was manufactured using flexible polyurethane foam technology, which was a relatively new development back then.
The Shadow production process is quite unique – instead of manufacturing the seat upholstery in a fixed mould in the usual way, the chair’s textile covering is filled directly with the liquid polyurethane mixture. The furniture is given its individual shape by filling out the seat surface with a life-size doll. In doing so, the polyurethane flexible foam encases the silhouette of the dummy, thus forming the seat of the easy chair and creating the "shadow". The Bayfit® system is supplied directly by the Italian polyurethane systems house BaySystems Italia.
The use of polyurethane in this application shows how versatile and innovative it can be.
Back complaints resulting from heavy lifting could soon be a thing of the past as the Dutch company Triple-E Lichtgewicht Meubilair B.V. in Winsum is now offering lightweight stage sections under the name “Flax-Deck” with external dimensions of 0.75 by 1.50 meters and a weight of only 16.5 kilograms. The low weight of the stackable and compact sections is due to a sandwich structure based on the Baypreg® polyurethane spray system from Bayer MaterialScience.
Generally lightweight and extremely stiff
Composite sandwich materials are generally lightweight and extremely stiff. The highly versatile stage sections consist of a light rigid foam core reinforced top and bottom with flax mats to absorb tensile forces, thereby increasing the strength of the composite. The sandwich structure can withstand a concentrated load of up to 150 kilograms. Its surface is protected by a highly abrasion-resistant and robust plastic layer.
During production, the fiber mats made out of natural flax are first impregnated on both sides with the dual-component polyurethane system using a spray process. The mats and the expanded polystyrene (EPS) core are then put together to form a sandwich and inserted into a preheated mold. This highly economical, one-step production process creates a permanently stable, extremely robust and rigid structure capable of withstanding high mechanical loads. This is due in no small measure to the polyurethane system’s excellent adhesion to various materials.