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New Surfactants Result in a More Environmentally Benign Production Process

Methylene chloride, a toxic chemical that contributes to air pollution, was recently eliminated from use in the U.S. polyurethane industry. This mandated elimination did not permit production of as large a range of foam grades as was possible using methylene chloride, thus placing U.S. industry at a competitive disadvantage. Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., with financial assistance from AMO, developed new silicone surfactants enabling the efficient production of the full range of foam grades using a more environmentally benign CO2 blowing agent. In addition to lowering toxicity, the new process uses less energy and reduces the net release of CO2, which is implicated in global warming.

The challenges in using liquid CO2 as a blowing agent include rapid vaporization, rapid bubble nucleation, and difficulty in maintaining fine cell structure in the foam. The new surfactants address these challenges by emulsifying the blowing agent, thereby maintaining fine cells during foaming. The silicone surfactants have achieved superior performance, resulting in finer cell structure (better yield), higher bun heights (better yield), better top to bottom physical property gradient (product consistency), and better compatibility with flame retardants.

Polyurethane Foam Production

Impacts of Commercialized Technology
  2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Energy Savings (Trillion Btu) 0.024 0.082 0.087 0.103 0.117 0.129
Emissions Reductions
(Thousand Tons)
Carbon 0.421 1.452 1.549 1.834 2.075 2.281
NOx 0.003 0.011 0.012 0.014 0.016 0.018
SOx 0.003 0.009 0.009 0.011 0.012 0.014
Particulates 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000

 

Overview

Applications

Can be used in polyurethane foam production.

 

Capabilities

  • Eliminates use of toxic methylene chloride.
  • Increases foam yield through finer foam structure.
  • Improves compatibility with flame retardants.

Benefits

Productivity

Increases yield through finer foam cell structure, higher bun heights, and improved top to bottom physical property gradients.

 

Safety

Improves compatibility with flame retardants.

 

Waste Reduction

Reduces the toxicity of the process and uses the CO2 blowing agent more effectively for reduced CO2 release to the atmosphere.

 

Contact Information

Mark Listemann
(610) 481-8590
listemml@airproducts.com
Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.