About usThis is a blog about polyurethanes and what it enables, so don’t be surprised if we have opinions on green roofs, comfort or energy efficiency.
It is run by ISOPA, the association representing European producers of the two building blocks for polyurethanes.
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As kids, we were taught to think big. First it was Disney’s Aladdin that inspired us, as we dreamt of flying away on a (polyurethane) magic carpet. Yes, a whole new world was promised to us. Despite being wildly disappointed that this only existed in the world of Disney, classic movies including Back to the Future inspired us to look forward, promising hoverboards by 2015 to get us to where ever we should wish to go. Though maybe our childhood dreams were not realised exactly as we would have hoped (we still have two years), there’s no need to despair! Alternative, energy efficient, and dare we say it, super cool, means of transportation are already out there, we promise you, and we’re about to fill you in! A skateboard, with a boost Imagine an electric vehicle that can get you to work, or anywhere within a 10km radius, quickly, without traffic frustrations or petrol. Now imagine you can pick it up and carry it with you. This souped-up skateboard “with a boost” could change the face of morning commutes. It weighs less than a bicycle, can be charged off a normal wall outlet in 15 minutes, can run 1,000km on only $1 and, as if that was not enough, it uses 20 times less energy for every kilometre that you travel than a car, thus dramatically reducing your energy footprint! Where does polyurethane come in here? Well Polyurethane elastomers are used in polyurethane skateboard wheels, essential for their light weight … Continue reading
Chapter 3 of our walk through history takes us to the swinging 60s. So far we have discovered polyurethanes throughout the 40s and 50’s, so what more could it possibly have to offer in the 1960’s? In a decade remembered for its complex political and cultural clashes across the globe, ranging from the height of the Cold War to the British Invasion, headed by a personal favourite of ours, The Beatles, and free love to flower power, at first glance it’s not entirely clear where polyurethane actually played a role in all of this! In fact, the sixties represent an important decade for the polyurethane industry as the number of applications expanded dramatically. Growth was especially strong in sectors such as construction, appliances and automotive as polyurethane began to dominate in these industries. By the mid-1960s, the global polyurethane market was about 500 kilotonnes and by the end of the decade, it surpassed one million tonnes! Given not all of you reading this were around in the 60’s, and so you may not be too sure what was going on back then, let’s take a flying tour through history: We had our first man on the moon as the Cold War’s space race reached a new peak! (Remember we talked about polyurethane in space suits last time!) We had a cultural revolution in the West, which brought with it new fashion of every colour under the sun facilitated by our very own polyurethane material in clothes and shoes. Western Europe … Continue reading
This Saturday, 23 March at 8.30pm, Earth Hour is upon us. Hundreds of millions of people will turn off their lights for one hour, on the same night, all across the world. The World Wildlife Foundation’s annual event aims to raise awareness of the huge amounts of energy that we consume each day. WWF is not the only one with this idea. The European Union too has committed to a 20% reduction in energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions, by 2020, in recognition of the unsustainable energy consumption by society today. It’s a big and scary thought and more often than not it’s easier to ignore rather than look directly in the eye. Every little bit helps, however, and you can make a difference too! We don’t just mean during Earth Hour this weekend, but starting today within your very own home! Research from McKinsey & Co indicates that if existing sustainable technologies such as solar panels, triple glazed windows or insulation were deployed to the fullest by 2020, a new home could consume around 90% less energy than it does today! The opportunity to decrease energy use can also be achieved within the existing building stock, as cuts of up to 40% could be achieved if we invest in ”greening” our homes! When looking at the cost of investment, the utilisation of these technologies is really not much to ask given that the cost of investment is almost immediately paid back thanks to the huge savings in return! But … Continue reading
Iron horseshoes have had a distinguished presence in the lives of horses ever since the beginning, way back when horses first took the noble role of giving mankind a helping hand in both work and leisure. But all great things must come to an end to make room for bigger and better creations; enter polyurethane! Polyurethane never ceases to amaze and make the world a better place, and this time it’s our beloved four legged friends who have an extra spring put in their step! We’re not horsing around; those in the equine fashion business call them “crocs for horses” and they come in colours ranging from neon pink to gray. Others refer to “the end of the Iron Age” whilst even more are raving about the physical and medical benefits of the new application. No matter what is being said, there is a stampede of commentary coming in. OK, we know you’re chomping at the bit to find out more so we’ll rein in the commentary and tell you what exactly we’re talking about! New plastic horse shoes have made an appearance in the equine market. In the past there have been many ways to shoe a horse, but each has had its drawbacks. Even though the traditional heavy iron or metal horse shoe has been the most popular shoe in the past, it has saddled many a horse with their fair share of problems as it requires the shoe to be physically nailed to the hoof of the … Continue reading
Picking up from where we left off in Chapter 1, where we discovered the role played by our favourite material in the turbulent 1940s, a glimpse into the 50s presents a very different story! Moving away from reconstruction, polyurethane’s role evolved as it became an essential part of the reintroduction of comfort and style back into the lives of those emerging from the Second World War. Polyurethanes were no longer used just to contribute where scarcity loomed, but rather adopted a role in luxury, through presenting affordable and stylish shoes and clothing, as well as home comforts. As if this wasn’t enough, polyurethane also gave a little something to one of the greatest scientific developments in world history: the Space Race! Operation transformation In the beginning of the decade, 1953 to be precise, shoe soles came to be created with synthetic leather made from polyurethane. So what did this mean? Suddenly shoes became more affordable, using a new material that was lighter and more flexible; in turn, this allowed for new styles of shoes to emerge. But that’s not all: polyurethane spandex fibres developed in the late 1950s equally revolutionised clothing, and the term “fashion” was placed back on the table for discussion after the dark 1940s. Home Comforts And what about comfort in the home? In 1954 polyurethane foam was introduced in cushions. It may not seem much to us coming from a world of comfort, where we can find polyurethane foam everywhere from our car seats to office … Continue reading
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 … Continue reading
From fashion to sport, here on our polyurethanes blog we love shoes. So much so, that we find reasons to write about them time and time again! Today we’ll treat you once more to one of the most innovative applications of polyurethane in the industry: the climbing shoe! In the last few years the world of climbing has witnessed an unprecedented array of shoes to choose from, with over 125 models on the market; in 2012 alone there were 38, yes 38, new models! This allows climbing enthusiasts of every shape, size and ability to find the perfect pair of shoes to take them to heights they’ve never reached before! So what’s the big deal? ‘Tis true that climbing has been around for a long time; our ancestors, the cave men, got by without any kind of shoe, right? But a journey through the history of the climbing shoe reveals that as our definition and understanding of it has evolved, so too has the climber’s limits vanished! From the early rock climbers’ heavy-soled mountaineering boots studded with metal cleats and hobnails, the modern polyurethane climbing shoe has come a very long way and is now more comparable to a glove! Why Polyurethane? Polyurethane is the material of choice, as its versatility and strength allows it to be moulded into many different styles of shoe; be it flat soled, round toed, or strong edged, polyurethane does the trick in achieving ultimate designs! Not only this, but polyurethane’s flexibility and comfort creates … Continue reading
It’s the latest trend in social media (and evidently a valuable one too!): Pinterest. The self-described “virtual pinboard’ allows its 48 million (!) users to “organize [yes, it’s US based] and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.” Given we’re fashionista’s and enjoy being in sync with the latest trends, we thought we’d join the party: enter Polyurethanes4U stage left! Like you, our avid readers, already know, polyurethanes are found just about everywhere in modern life. We’ve demonstrated this on Pinterest by creating different pinboards for some cool polyurethanes applications: The great thing about Pinterest is that you can browse pinboards created by other people. Scouring the pinboards of others is actually a really fun way to discover new things and to get inspired by those who share your interests; for example, check out this doozy: the Metropol Parasol in Seville, Spain, is made of interwoven wood and steel panels, and is held together by polyurethane sealant. Though Pinterest is a great place to find a lot more interesting and exciting pictures when it comes to polyurethanes (definitely use our pinboards as a starting point!), it’s not the only social media platform available for your polyurethane needs: Check out www.polyurethanes.org for in depth information. View our YouTube account, PolyurethanesMedia, for a visual explanation of what polyurethanes are. And read the latest about polyurethane on Twitter: @Polyurethanes4U! Many thanks, The Polyurethanes Team
It may sound like something from the Matrix, but it’s true: polyurethanes can create the ultimate bullet proof material! OK, bulletproof material is not exactly a new idea. In fact, it has existed since the days of the Second World War, when it was widely used in the shell of armoured vehicles. But traditional materials used are normally too heavy and cumbersome; this is where new nanotechnology using polyurethane material swoops in to save the day! The super light but highly impervious design of polyurethane composite could potentially be applied to a huge array of areas: think ultra-light and thin car windshields, protective body armour, jet engine turbine blades, cladding to protect spacecraft or satellites from micrometeorites of space junk… The list could go on and on! There’s no stopping the possibilities to make lighter, more durable and safer materials! So how does it work? Well the polyurethane composite material dissipates the strain of sudden impact. Essentially, the innovative, new material becomes liquid around the entry point of the impact object, for example a bullet, before it solidifies and resumes its original shape. So imagine this: the material does not only stop a bullet but also seals the entry way without cracking or damaging the material! Research is still at an early stage but the team of researchers involved in the project eventually hope their findings will be applied to future generations of design technology, so watch this space! There you have it; another example of the ever evolving versatility … Continue reading
New polyurethane technology could radically change medicine! It’s done. Polyurethanes have finally exceeded our highest expectations. We already discovered how polyurethanes help tackle diseases in hospitals, and even looked at the polyurethane artificial heart, but new research has shown that polyurethane foam can also be used for medical purposes! “How could this be?!”, we hear you exclaim in astonishment; “polyurethane foam used in medical treatment?” That’s right; polyurethane is not just for excellent insulation or comfortable mattresses. To answer your questions, I invite you to picture this: someone is wounded in an isolated area, far away from any medical facilities. There is a long journey ahead before this person can receive treatment and little can be done to stop the patient from bleeding before they reach a hospital, putting the wounded patient at great risk. This paints a dire picture, but thanks to new research conducted by the US Department of Defense, polyurethane foam may be able to make a life-saving difference in this scenario. The foam, which is formed by two liquids, is injected into the body, where it mixes, expands and hardens to create an internal dressing (if you find it hard to picture, make sure you check out the video at the end which does a great job in visualising this). Once the wounded patient is transferred to receive proper medical attention, the foam can easily be removed in literally minutes in one solid block. Not only is the technology of huge value for controlling haemorrhages, polyurethane … Continue reading