Polyurethane is derived from a chemical reaction of a diisocyanate with a polyol. Once this reaction has occurred, a substance is created that is safe and extremely versatile. It can have a number of diverse properties (resilience, flexibility, rigidity), depending on the choice of combined substances.
Polyurethanes have hundreds of different uses. The material is so versatile that it can be found in anything from roof insulation to surfboards. Because of its wide range of applications, the industry is constantly coming up with new ways of using the material, so the list is always growing. Learn more about where polyurethanes can be found here.
Is the polyurethane in my surfboard the same as that used in my mattress? How can one material be both hard and soft?
Essentially, all polyurethanes belong to the same chemical family. They are created by means of a chemical reaction combining a diisocyanate and a polyol. There is a wide range of these two substances that can be combined, rather like a tool kit. The properties of the finished product depend on the choice of starting materials.
A summary of the key socio-economic parameters of the industry value chain, based on MDI, TDI and associated polyols, shows that it :
- involves more than 23,000 companies
- employs more than 360,000 workers
- generates a market value of over €150 billion
In addition, associated but indirect activities involve more than 71,000 companies employing about 2,040,000 people. The majority of companies in the polyurethanes industry are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Yes, polyurethanes are safe.
Polyurethanes are derived from chemicals called diisocyanates and polyols that undergo a reaction to form an inert substance – polyurethane. Substantial research has shown polyurethanes to be safe and inert.
Quite frankly, even we cannot be 100% sure! The material is so versatile that it can be found in anything from roof insulation to surfboards. As there are almost endless combinations of starting materials, the number of finished products appears to be limitless too. Because of its wide-ranging benefits, the industry is constantly coming up with new ways of using the material, so the list is always growing as polyurethanes continue to replace more traditional materials, such as metal and rubber in cars. Access our interactive tool showing some of the more common applications of the material, or learn more about where polyurethanes can be found.
Over two million tonnes of polyurethane is produced in the EU every year
Polyurethanes have been used in refrigerators since 1960.
Polyurethanes in vehicles ensure comfort, safety, and durability as well as enhanced fuel efficiency, as they are lighter than alternative materials, thereby contributing to weight reduction and lower fuel consumption. Polyurethane is also extremely effective in sound insulation.