A Walk to Remember: Polyurethane Throughout the Ages: Chapter 1- The 1940’s

75 years. The wonderful composition of polyurethane has been around for 75 years, growing decade by decade to enhance your life, be it through comfort, safety or technology. But how did it all begin? To see how we’ve arrived at this point today it requires we take a journey back to whenst it first began.

Chapter 1 of the polyurethanes “walk to remember” takes us to the beginning, Europe moving into the 1940s. Keep reading upcoming chapters to follow as we explore, decade by decade, the exciting path taken by our favourite material…

Chapter 1: The 1940’s

In a decade of turbulence and war, polyurethane managed to emerge out of the shadows of destruction to become THE innovative material of the decade, responding directly to the scarcity of natural resources post-WII. Polyurethane represented a groundbreaking material, with superior qualities of strength, yet lightness, and most importantly, versatility, which were not available in conventional rubber, plastic and metal products.

At first it was not so easy as the early foams were slow and laborious to manufacture, being mainly blended in laboratories by hand. But, this didn’t stop them from achieving great things! From the end of the 1930s, when Dr. Otto Bayer first discovered basic polyurethane chemistry, the following decade saw the application of PU in aircraft, insulation and as an adhesive! Not bad for its infant days!

But how did the invention and application of polyurethane make a difference? Well, when in 1940 rigid polyurethane foam was first introduced into aircraft, the material offered a strong yet lighter alternative material which allowed the mass production of aircraft to continue despite limited resources during the heart of the Second World War. When looking at its early application as an adhesive between rubber and glass in 1941, and as an insulation material in 1948 (first used on a beer barrel!), it is clear that this decade looked forward to the end of the war and the reconstruction of towns and cities in a post-war world made better with the help of polyurethane materials!

Check out the time line on our polyurethanes website here and don’t forget to read our next “chapters” as we look at polyurethane throughout the ages…

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