What is polyurethane?

Every day, we use polyurethanes in some way or another – in our homes, offices, cars, and for leisure and sport activities, as well as on vacation.

There are many forms of polyurethane, which is a type of plastic material. You can make it rigid or flexible to suit your needs. This makes polyurethane the ideal material for many end-user applications, such as:

  • Insulation of freezers and refrigerators
  • Building insulation
  • Cushioning for furniture
  • mattresses
  • Car parts
  • Coatings
  • Adhesives
  • Rollers and tyres
  • Composite wood panels
  • Soles for shoes
  • Sportswear

Polyurethanes can be used in a variety of applications and are safe and modern. Polyurethanes are versatile and safe. They can be used to make a variety of industrial and consumer products.

Professor Otto Bayer (1902-1982) invented polyurethane in the 1930s. There are many types of polyurethane that look and feel different. Polyurethane is used in many products including coatings, adhesives, shoes soles, mattresses, and foam insulation. The basic chemistry of all types is the same.

Polyurethane was first used as a substitute for rubber during World War II. They were expensive and difficult to find at that time. Other applications were also developed during World War II, mostly involving coatings of various types, from aircraft finishes to clothing that is resistant.

Polyurethane was used in adhesives and elastomers in the 1950s. Later, flexible cushioning foams that were similar to the ones used today were developed.

Subsequent decades saw many further developments and today we are surrounded by polyurethane applications in every aspect of our everyday lives. Polyurethane is not a common product, but it is often ‘hidden’ behind other materials or covers. It would be difficult to imagine life without it.

Research and Science on Polyurethanes

Polyurethane can be described as plastic polymers that are made from combining polyols and diisocyanates ( TDI, MDI ). There are hundreds of types of polyurethane, each made in a different way.


    • To create the soft and comfortable feel of a sofa or mattress, carbon dioxide is used to blow it. The foam will be more soft if it is used with more blowing agents.
    • A rigid foam can trap pentane in its closed cells, maximising its insulation ability.
    • Rollerblade wheels on the other side don’t require any blowing agents and instead have a dense, hardwearing consistency.
      Polyurethanes, energy efficiencyPolyurethanes offer many solutions for eco-design and energy conservation because they are versatile and excellent insulators. Polyurethanes are constantly looking for ways to minimize their impact on the environment. They are currently investigating ways to increase the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes, and create end products that can save energy like building insulation. These products can help businesses and families reduce their energy costs while also protecting the environment. Future production methods will be improved, which could lead to more affordable and environmentally-friendly polyurethanes.
      Did you know?
      You may not be aware of many interesting facts about polyurethane, but you can expand your knowledge by looking at the following list.You will also find links to informative fact sheets that provide more detail on various aspects of this product.
      Information and figures about polyurethanes
    • Insulation made of polyurethane insulation 1.6cm thick has the same insulation performance as concrete walls that are 1.34m thick!
    • All polyurethane foams are HCFC-free within the EU since 2003.
    • The EU’s polyurethane sector employs more than 360.000 people.
    • In the 1950s, the first surfboard made of polyurethane was used.
    • Models today designated A++ are 60% more efficient because of the inclusion of polyurethane in refrigerators.
    • In 1973, the introduction of thermoplastic polyurethane wheels (TPU) and later TPU boots made roller skates more popular. They are now known as Rollerblades.
    • Insulation saves energy by reducing the amount of polyurethane insulation needed to make one house.
    • Polyurethane is also known as PU and PUR.
    • All polyurethane foams are CFC-free in Europe since 1995. They have also been HCFC-free since 2003.
    • Many applications can use foams made from renewable materials, such as mattresses.
    • A PU-based solution is protecting more dams and dikes from storms.



Dr. Otto Bayer discovers basic polyurethane chemistry I.G. Farben


First introduction of rigid foam into an aircraft


Adhesive for rubber, metal, and glass


First insulation application – a beer barrel


Polyurethane rubber for vulcanisation


Synthetic leather is made from polyurethane soles for shoes


Cushions made of polyurethane foam


Spandex fiber introduced for clothing pu


NASA has developed space suits with a polyurethane liner for the Mercury mission.


Panels for sandwich-building steel panels


Integral skin for the sole of shoes and armrests


The K67, the first all-plastic car with interiors made of polyurethane, is on display in Germany


For increased safety, use bumpers on your automobile


Imitation wood, Orthopaedics and Medical Applications


Track surface for the Munich Olympic Stadium


Roller skates are now possible with the help of thermoplastic polyurethane wheels.


Bob Evans invented the polyurethane “Forcefin” flippers that can be used for many underwater activities.


Invention of spray insulation for buildings


Sandwich panels made from polyurethane-based materials were first introduced


Polyurethane is used to make surfboards


Passenger safety in cars with energy-absorbing foam


For passenger safety in cars, energy-absorbing foam


First football to contain polyurethane materials


The first passive house constructed in Darmstadt (Germany) using polyurethane-insulated window frames


Tempur-Pedic is the first to produce a memory foam mattress made from polyurethane in the USA


NASA’s Endeavour spacecraft makes its first flight. The shuttle uses polyurethane for external fuel tanks protection


Thin wall medical tubing, i.e. catheters


To enhance performance, bicycle tires contain polyurethane material.


To improve performance, car tires contain polyurethane material.


All polyurethane foams are HCFC-free in Europe. Since 2003


Elastocoast polyurethane adhesive system that reinforces existing dykes.


After a 10-year clinical trial, Syncardia, a total artificial heart with polyurethane ventricles was approved for use.


Ballast bed with partially foamed material for rail vehicles. This reduces noise pollution and maintenance costs.


Swimsuits made of 100% high-speed, polyurethane are ideal for world-class swimmers.


The porous Elastopave pavement allows air and water to move through it


Cars with scratches can be repaired by self-curing coating


The first solar-powered plane that has flown around the globe; polyurethanes are vital in this light-weight frame.


Apple unveils the smart cover made of polyurethane for its iPad 2


A robotic’smart bird’ has been developed that can fly with a bird-like motion. It is made of polyurethane, fibre-glass casing and nylon.

MARCH 2011

Airbus, which uses polyurethane technology for their aeroplanes has reached their 10,000th order

MAY 2011,

Formula One’s top tracks use polyurethane safety block to replace tires

JUNE 2011

For e-cars, lightweight designs and high-performance insulation are made of polyurethane foam.

JULY 2011

In Germany, the first plant to use carbon dioxide as an inert for polyurethane has been opened

Olympic track polyurethane

Polyurethane helps Olympic athletes achieve their dreams

Right now in Tokyo, we have brought together the best athletes from all over the globe for a summer of celebration and competition. Polyurethane is present in Japan to support these top athletes and make certain your favorite sports are possible. Here are some ways that polyurethane helps world-class athletes reach their sporting goals.

Running Track Systems | Synthetic Running Track | Paved In Place

Track Field Surface

In years past, track surfaces came in many forms: gravel, dirt, and asphalt. Most track surfaces used today by serious athletes are made from rubber crumbs that have been bonded with a polyurethane adhesive. 09- tracks provide relative springiness, which allows for faster runs. However, they can also cushion runners’ feet and prevent injury to their joints. Polyurethane track systems can withstand high temperatures without becoming sticky or tacky like asphalt tracks. Polyurethane track systems allow rainwater to flow through the track, with the water collecting in an irrigation device below.

NRG Track Systems | General Sports Surfaces

Track and Field Wear

Polyurethane is a well-known component of performance wear, as many readers know. It’s the perfect fit for apparel designed for track and field athletes. The fabric is stretchy, so it moves with the wearer and stays taut. Polyurethane clothing is lightweight and thin, which means that it doesn’t add bulk to the world-class athletes as they strive for excellence.

lzr racer banned Shop Clothing & Shoes Online


The power of polyurethane was on full display in 2008 as the world witnessed its versatility. Swimmers set records in the pool as countries started to incorporate polyurethane into their swimwear. According to swimsuit manufacturers, the suits compress the muscles of swimmers which reduces friction and allows them to move faster in the pool.

The End of Swimsuit Design Innovation | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian  Magazine

New standards have been established by the bodies that govern various aquatic sports. They regulate how a swimmer’s swimsuit fits and what materials it may contain. Polyurethane remains an important part of these swimsuits and the 25 records that were set in 2005 were accepted.

Top 15 Tenders and RIBS for the Modern Cruiser - Southern Boating

Boating Equipment

Polyurethane is often used to protect athletes from the elements when they take to water in boating competitions.  performance polyurethane finishes protect boats exteriors from salt, wind, and water. A boat’s hull can also be encased in rigid polyurethane. This material can be used to improve buoyancy and add weight to all types of boats. Because it is able to absorb water and petrochemicals, polyurethane is a popular material for boats.

Ultra Shock 20' x 20' x Roll-Up Wrestling Mat | AK Athletic Equipment

The Mat

What does high jump, Taekwondo and pole-vaulting have in common with jiu-jitsu? They all take place on a mat. You guessed it, polyurethane is likely to be in that mat. Polyurethane is an excellent choice for mats that are used in athletic activities. Polyurethane is flexible and can absorb the impact of falling or tumbling athletes. Polyurethane is also strong enough to withstand repeated impacts from athletes over time.


The future of batteries is here: lithium-ion batteries that never go dead

In our future supercharged world, the demand for battery storage is expected to be immense, reaching upwards of 2 to 10 terawatt-hours (TWh) of annual battery production by 2030, from less than 0.5 TWh today. However, concerns are mounting as to whether key raw materials will meet this future demand. The lithium-ion r battery – the dominant technology for the foreseeable future – has a component made of cobalt and nickel, and those two metals face critical supply shortages on the global market.

After several years of research, a specialized Berkeley Lab has made significant progress in developing battery cathodes using a new class of materials that provide batteries with the same if not higher energy density than conventional lithium-ion batteries but can be made of inexpensive and abundant metals. Known as DRX, which stands for disordered rock salts with excess lithium, this novel family of materials was created less than ten years ago and allowed cathodes to be made without nickel or cobalt.



In our future amazed world, the demand for battery storage is projected to be enormous, reaching to upwards of 2 to 10 terawatt-hours (TWh) of annual battery production by 2030, from less than 0.5 TWh today. Nevertheless, issues are growing regarding whether crucial basic materials will be adequate to meet this future need. The lithium-ion battery – the dominant technology for the foreseeable future – has actually a component made from cobalt and nickel, and those two metals deal with severe supply constraints on the international market.

Now, after numerous years of research led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), scientists have made considerable progress in establishing battery cathodes using a new class of products that supply batteries with the same if not higher energy density than standard lithium-ion batteries but can be made from low-cost and abundant metals. Called DRX, which means disordered rocksalts with excess lithium, this unique family of products was developed less than 10 years back and enables cathodes to be made without nickel or cobalt.

The classic lithium-ion battery has served us well, but as we consider future needs for energy storage, its dependence on particular important minerals exposes us not only to supply-chain risks, but also environmental and social concerns. This provides lithium batteries the possibility to be the structure for sustainable battery technologies for the future.

The cathode is among the two electrodes in a battery and represent more than one-third of the expense of a battery. Presently the cathode in lithium-ion batteries uses a class of products referred to as NMC, with nickel, manganese, and cobalt as the key ingredients.

With the current NMC class, which is limited to simply nickel, cobalt, and an inactive component made of manganese, the timeless lithium-ion battery is at the end of its efficiency curve unless you transfer to brand-new cathode materials, which’s what the DRX program deals. DRX products have enormous compositional versatility – and this is very effective due to the fact that not only can you utilize all sort of abundant metals in a DRX cathode, but you can also use any type of metal to repair any problem that might come up throughout the early stages of developing new batteries. That’s why we’re so fired up.

Cobalt and nickel supply-chain threats

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has made it a top priority to find ways to minimize or get rid of the use of cobalt in batteries. “The battery market is dealing with an enormous resource crunch,” said Ceder. “Even at 2 TWh, the lower range of international demand projections, that would consume almost all of today’s nickel production, and with cobalt we’re not even close. Cobalt production today is just about 150 kilotons, and 2 TWh of battery power would need 2,000 kilotons of nickel and cobalt in some mix.”

What’s more, over two-thirds of the world’s nickel production is presently utilized to make stainless-steel. And majority of the world’s production of cobalt originates from the Democratic Republic of Congo, with Russia, Australia, the Philippines, and Cuba rounding out the leading 5 producers of cobalt.

On the other hand, DRX cathodes can use just about any metal in place of nickel and cobalt. Researchers at Berkeley Lab have actually focused on using manganese and titanium, which are both more plentiful and lower cost than nickel and cobalt.

Manganese oxide and titanium oxide expense less than $1 per kg whereas cobalt expenses about $45 per kg and nickel about $18. With DRX you have the possible to make really low-cost energy storage. At that point lithium-ion becomes unequalled and can be used all over – for lorries, the grid – and we can truly make energy storage abundant and economical.

Ordered vs. disordered

Ceder and his team established DRX materials in 2014. In batteries, the number and speed of lithium ions able to take a trip into the cathode translates into how much energy and power the battery has. In standard cathodes, lithium ions travel through the cathode product along well-defined pathways and organize themselves in between the transition metal atoms (normally cobalt and nickel) in neat, orderly layers.

What Ceder’s group found was that a cathode with a disordered atomic structure might hold more lithium – which suggests more energy – while enabling a larger series of components to function as the shift metal. They likewise found out that within that mayhem, lithium ions can easily hop around.

In 2018, the Vehicle Technologies Office in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offered financing for Berkeley Lab to take a “deep dive” into DRX products. In collaboration with researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and UC Santa Barbara, Berkeley Lab groups led by Ceder and Guoying Chen have actually made significant progress in enhancing DRX cathodes in lithium-ion batteries.

For example, the charge rate – or how fast the battery can charge – of these materials was initially extremely low, and its stability was also bad. The research group has actually discovered methods to deal with both of these problems through modeling and experimentation. Research studies on utilizing fluorination to improve stability have been published in Advanced Functional Materials and Advanced Energy Materials; research study on how to allow a high charging rate was recently released in Nature Energy.

Given that DRX can be made with several elements, the researchers have also been dealing with which aspect would be best to utilize, striking the sweet area of being plentiful, low-cost, and providing great efficiency. “DRX has now been manufactured with nearly the entire table of elements,” Ceder stated.

This is science at its finest – basic discoveries that will serve as the bedrock of systems in future houses, lorries, and grids. What has made Berkeley Lab so successful in battery innovation for years now is our combination of breadth and depth of know-how – from essential discovery to characterization, synthesis, and manufacturing, as well as energy markets and policy research. Partnership is crucial – we partner with market and beyond to fix real-world problems, which in turn assists galvanize the world-leading science we do at the Lab.

Quick progress

New battery materials have generally taken 15 to 20 years to commercialize; Ceder believes progress on DRX materials can be accelerated with a larger team. “We’ve made terrific progress in the last three years with the deep dive,” Ceder stated. “We’ve pertained to the conclusion that we’re ready for a bigger group, so we can involve individuals with a more varied set of skills to really refine this.”

An expanded research group could move quickly to deal with the staying concerns, including enhancing the cycle life (or the number of times the battery can be recharged and discharged over its life time) and enhancing the electrolyte, the chemical medium that enables the circulation of electrical charge between the cathode and anode. Given that being established in Ceder’s laboratory, groups in Europe and Japan have also launched big DRX research study programs.

Advances in battery innovations and energy storage will require continued breakthroughs in the essential science of products. Berkeley Lab’s knowledge, distinct facilities, and abilities in sophisticated imaging, calculation, and synthesis allow us to study products at the scale of atoms and electrons. We are well poised to accelerate the development of promising materials like DRX for clean energy.

Are you looking for protective coatings? ArmorThane is our go to company for many materials but more than any other product, polyurea is the greatest product on earth. If you would like to have some questions answered or would like to know how you can become a professional applicator, click here.


Troy Explains: The difference between epoxy, polyurethane, and resin

Today we’re going to cover lot’s of scientific words such as resin, polyurethane and epoxy. You will probably have lots of questions like are they the same thing? Are they not the same thing? What’s your thing and how does ArmorThane fit into this? What about polyester? Is polyester a thing? I don’t know but i am going to answer all of these questions…

Let’s jump in!

We have resin. That’s the huge overarching term. There are organic resins, things like gums that trees produce. We’re not talking about that.

We’re talking about synthetic resins. That’s what you know and love underneath resin. We have thermal plastics and then thermosetting plastics. So thermoplastics, things that can be melted or injection molded or formed, things like acrylic, Delran stuff you probably don’t deal with. Plus we covered these terms in our last post.

So let’s ignore them! 

So thermal setting plastics are usually liquid one or two parts that become solid and stay solid. They don’t meltdown. That’s where we find our good old friends, polyester epoxy and polyurethane.

PU vs Epoxy: What's the Difference and Which Is Best for You?

Let’s quickly go through each. So polyester resin was one of the first synthetic resins that we came up with. And to be honest, it wasn’t that great. It’s brittle now. It’s just using boats with a bunch of fiberglasses to reinforce it. So let’s move on. 

Next was epoxy. Hey, that word sounds familiar. A pox, a type of resin wonder that that’s much stronger, much more solid. We enjoy that!

But it just becomes a hard plastic one time. And that’s it. Not a lot of variety. They’re perfect for river tables, tumblers. 

You know this stuff. You love it. Come on. 

After epoxy, they invented polyurethane. This is much more versatile. It can be foam. It can be rubber. It can be hard plastic. This stuff is wild and crazy ArmorThane that you use in your truck bed. That’s polyurethane.

Some of the phones that you have in cushions and seats are polyurethane woodturning bulls. And Penlington, the beautiful clarity of clear sloth. That’s polyurethane. I know what you’re saying.

Troy, you don’t care about science. All right. No big deal. That’s enough of that. Let’s jump into two things. Epoxy and polyurethane. Why and when you should use each one of them. It’s been all right. So for categories, I want to talk about his products, time, moisture, and ease of use.

Epoxy Resin Coverage Calculator: How Much Epoxy Will I Need?

Those are the huge, huge main differences between epoxy and urethane. So let’s jump into each so the products that are epoxy products of ours, you’re going to recognize these amazing clear cast, the new amazing clear cast plus and the even newer, amazing deep or all of those are poxes. So the time aspect of epoxy is it has a pretty linear, a pretty steady here schedule. That’s why when you’re mixing up a batch of epoxy, you have a thirty-five to forty-minute open time, and then you have a cure time of about twenty-four hours and then a full cure of about five to seven days.

It’s linear; it’s pretty steady. That’s very normal. It can still be a shorter time, like a quick coat or a much longer time. Like an amazing or, but it’s pretty linear now when it comes to poxes and moisture. No big deal. They don’t mind it. If you’re doing a woodworking project where epoxy is going directly onto the wood painting, use epoxy, it has a much higher tolerance for that type of moisture in the last category, ease of use for epoxy, there is a high tolerance.

What I mean by high tolerance, it’s forgiving. All right. A little bit of an ounce off here, there is a larger batch, or I’m not sure if I got everything mixed perfectly, perfectly. It’s still going to harden up. It’s still going to be fine. Now, what about Urethane coating? Well, a couple of different things here as far as products go. This is clear Slowes RC is another popular one. Flex, Flex Rubber’s, our flex foams.

There’s a ton of urethane products we have. They’re amazing. Let’s talk about their cure schedule, their cure time. What happens in that? Well, usually, with urethane, we have a lot more variables. We can change, and we can manipulate things accordingly. So what you’ll see is nothing happening, nothing going on. Nothing’s happened. Suddenly it’s cured. I couldn’t resist. I’m sorry. So these things cure quickly, usually on a short schedule.

So you’ll be going steady, and then bam, it’s cured, or you’re going pretty steady, and then really quickly it’s cured fast. That’s why we suggested woodturning applications because you can pour a blank, get it in the pressure. Part D demoed it in ninety minutes and got going with an epoxy. It’s a little bit harder. Here’s the thing, though, as much as we love how fast those things kick back, not a fan of moisture. I could put a little drop of water into your thing, and it would start to foam.

So should you use this within woodworking projects? No, not unless your wood is completely stabilized. Now, as far as ease of use of your Thain’s, well, there are a little less forgiving there. You are still forgiving, but a little bit less. That’s why you’re often going to see on the labels one to one by weight or two to one by weight. This is a little bit more of exact science, and you got to pay attention to it.

All right. So there you go. Hopefully, that clears much information about the world of resins and the epoxy world within that, and the polyurethane world within that, and the polyester resin world. It’s a lot. I know. Let us know if you want me to do another one of these. I’ll go even deeper to the extent.

Visit ArmorThane to learn how you can purchase and use these amazing chemicals!


What’s the difference between thermosetting and thermoplastic polyurethane?

I have been seeing this and getting this question a lot from you readers as well as on message boards and facebook groups, so i figured i would take a little time and write up an answer for anyone looking.

Thermoset vs Thermoplastic

Thermosets are materials that undergo a chemical reaction (curing) and normally transform from a liquid to a solid. In its uncured form, the material has small, unlinked molecules (known as monomers). The addition of a second material (cross-linker, curing agent, catalyst) and the presence of heat or some other activating influences will initiate the chemical reaction (curing reaction).

How does a thermo-plastic or a thermosetting resin or plastic, differ from  each other? - Quora

The molecules cross-link and form significantly longer molecular chains and cross-link networks during this reaction, causing the material to solidify. This change is permanent and irreversible. Subsequently, exposure to high heat will cause the material to degrade, not melt. This is because these materials typically degrade at a temperature below where they would be able to meet.

Examples Of Thermosetting And Thermoplastics Materials. | Download Table

Thermoplastics are melt-process-able plastics (materials that are processed with heat). When enough heat is added to bring the temperature of the plastic above its melting point, the plastic liquefies (softens enough to be processed). When the heat source is removed and the temperature of the plastic drops below its melting point, the plastic solidifies back into a glass-like solid.

This process can be repeated, with the plastic melting and solidifying as the temperature climbs above and drops below the melting temperature, respectively. However, the material can be increasingly subject to deterioration in its molten state, so there is a practical limit to the number of times that this reprocessing can occur before material properties begin to suffer. Many thermoplastic polymers are addition-type, yielding very long molecular chain lengths (very high molecular weights).

As mentioned above, thermoplastics are capable of being repeatedly softened by the application of heat and hardened by cooling and have the potential to be the most easily recycled, which has seen them most favored in recent commercial uptake. In contrast, the better realization of the fiber properties is generally achieved using thermosets.
DSC can be a good tool to determine if it melts and can re-melt thermoplastic or just Tg (example) for thermoset.

Hopefully I have answered your questions regarding thermosetting and thermoplastic polyurethane. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to comment below and I will be glad to answer any you might have.


New Polyurethane Designed to Degrade for Reuse

Polyurethane is utilized in a wide range of materials, including paints, foam mattresses, and insulation. These various applications produce large amounts of waste. A team at the University of Illinois has produced a method to break down polyurethane waste and turn it into other beneficial products.
The researchers will publish their findings at the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition.
In the U.S. alone, 1.3 million tons of polyurethane waste is produced each year. The waste usually ends up in landfills or is burned, a process that requires a large energy input and creates toxic byproducts.
“We want to solve the waste problem by repurposing polyurethane,” said Ephraim Morado, a graduate student in the laboratory of chemistry professor Steven Zimmerman, who led the study.
Polyurethanes are made of two elements that are hard to break down: isocyanates, which are composed of nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen, and alcohol groups called polyols.
“The polyol is usually petroleum-based and is not degradable,” Morado said. The team combined a more easily degraded chemical unit to address this problem, an acetal, to the polyol. And because polyurethanes are water-resistant, the researchers developed an acetal unit that degrades in solvents other than water.
“When we add a combination of trichloroacetic acid and dichloromethane, the material swells and rapidly degrades at room temperature,” Morado said.
The degradation results that are formed can then be repurposed to new materials. For example, the researchers transformed elastomers—a type of polyurethane used in rubber bands, packaging, and car parts—into adhesive glue.
“One of the challenges with our method is that the starting material is costly,” Zimmerman said. “We are trying to find a safer, cheaper way to achieve this. Our second obstacle will be to get a patent and find someone interested in marketing it.”
The researchers are experimenting with the same technique on other polyurethane substances. They also hope to use milder solvents, such as vinegar, to carry out the degradation.
“The polyurethane materials have complex properties based on the chemical composition of the isocyanate,” Zimmerman said. “We can improve the structure of the acetal accordingly.”


Polyurethane foam adsorbent for efficient crude oil cleanup

A research group at the Ningbo Institute of Materials Technology and Engineering (NIMTE), has synthesized a high-efficiency carbon nanotube (CNT) modified lignin-based polyurethane adsorbent for crude oil spill removal, in cooperation with Prof. Chen Tao’s group at NIMTE and Prof. Yan Ning’s group at the University of Toronto. The research study was released in the Chemical Engineering Journal.

In recent years, the leakage of oil or natural chemicals has actually resulted in economic losses, petrochemical resource waste and extreme environmental pollution, positioning great hazards to the marine ecosystem and human health. Nevertheless, existing approaches for crude oil clean-up are not able to integrate excellent remediation performance with environmental management.

Researchers at NIMTE utilized the photothermal effect triggered by sunlight as the energy source to warm the heavy oil components, therefore significantly lowering their fundamental high viscosities to achieve a quick and efficient petroleum cleanup.

Through an easy polyurethane lathering process, they prepared lignin-based polyurethane foams. As a photothermal sorbent, the ready polyurethane foam was doped with carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and showed excellent sunshine absorption of 97% for heavy oil with their surface area temperature even going beyond 90 ℃ after 500 s of direct exposure under one sunlight. The customized foams adsorbed more than six times of its weight of crude oil within six minutes under one sun lighting.

In addition, the lignin-based foam adsorbents were degradable in alkaline environments with the degradation performance reaching 88.03% and the degradation rate of 6.25 mg/h in 2 mol/L NaOH aqueous option at 80 ℃ for 10 h. Meanwhile, CNTs can be recuperated from the same condition.

This work has not just provided an effective and eco-friendly approach for heavy crude oil spill removal and recovery, however also shed light on the high-value usage of dark-colored bio-based polymers.