Polyurethane Blowing Agents Can Be Environmentally Friendly and Still Offer Superior Insulating Properties

This informative article was featured on the Engineering 360 website. It details the history of foam blowing agents and the environmentally friendly options available today (like ecomate) that let manufacturers eliminate the use of harmful HFCs.

As far as outstanding insulating properties, it is hard to beat polyurethanes. The versatile chemistry allows the materials to solve many challenges, while providing underlying value to both industrial and consumer products.

Polyurethanes are formed by reacting a polyol with a diisocyanate or a polymeric isocyanate in the presence of suitable catalysts and additives. Because a variety of diisocyanates and polyols can be used in polyurethane production, a spectrum of materials can be produced to address specific applications.

Since its invention in the 1940s, polyurethane has emerged as one of the best insulators available. Most refrigerators and freezers are made with a metal outer shell, a plastic inner liner, and a layer of polyurethane foam insulation sandwiched in between. The foam material’s thermal properties help control the heat exchange and enable a streamlined manufacturing process.

Critical to making compact yet highly efficient polyurethane is the blowing agent. The blowing agent is a substance capable of producing a cellular structure by a foaming process. It is typically applied when the material is still liquid. During the manufacturing process, the blowing agent expands the foam, enabling it to fill cavities and providing excellent physical properties. The cellular structure helps reduce density even as it increases the material’s thermal insulation and stiffness.

Phase out of R141b is major step in South Africa’s HPMP

Where are we with banning the importation of the HCFC blowing agent R141b in terms of South Africa’s phase-down schedule for ozone depleting substances?

As a signatory of the Montreal Protocol, South Africa phased out the importation and production of CFCs on 1 January 1996. Because of the high ozone depletion potential (ODP) of CFCs like R11, R12, and R502, the international community first focused on the phasing out of these man-made substances to halt the damage to the ozone layer at between 10 and 30km above the earth’s surface.

Next-Generation Appliance Foams: The Challenges Ahead

One of our Chemists, Raul Dacomba, wrote a white paper for Appliance Design.

Change is a certainty in this world, and the appliance industry is no exception. Regulatory mandates are imposing yet another transition to a new generation of polyurethane foam blowing agents. The legislation states that Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and blends will be unacceptable for use starting January 2020. Refrigerant use will be unacceptable starting January 2021.

A blowing agent is one of many key ingredients used to manufacture polyurethane foams; their inherently low thermal conductivities are a desired trait. Before delving into specifics on the future of appliance foams, it is important to understand the history of blowing agents.

Download the paper as a PDF

For further information, we recommend reading:

Rigid Polyurethane Pour In Place (PIP)


Appliance Foams: Overcoming the Next Blowing Agent Challenge through Optimization

John Murphy, a senior blowing agent specialist at Foam Supplies Inc., has written an in-depth article regarding foam blowing agents and the challenges faced in complying with up-to-date regulations as well as efficiency in accomplishing their purposes. The article was featured in Appliance Design’s August 2015 issue.

View the article in pdf format here.