Q:

What is polyurethane made of?

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Quick Answer

Polyurethane is made by combining an organic compound containing two isocyanate groups, known as a di-isocyanate, with a polyol blend. Polyol is an alcohol with multiple hydroxyl groups. The specialist class of polyol most often used to formulate polyurethane is the hydroxyl-terminated polybutadienes, according to Bayer Material Science.

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Full Answer

The polyol blend, also referred to as resin, is primary composed of a base polyol. However, it usually includes other ingredients as well, such as a chain extender, catalyst, surfactant or blowing agent. Color additives are other possible constituents that may be included.

The chain extender is a polyol with many short chains for joining together the base polyol’s longer chains. The catalyst stimulates the reaction between the isocyanate and the resin. The surfactant controls foaming during the production of polyurethane foam, and the blowing agent is what creates the foam.

The blowing agent may be water, carbon dioxide, a chemical such as pentane, or some other substance. Without the agent, polyurethane takes the form of a heavy solid, such as the elastomeric polyurethanes used to manufacture inline skate wheels.

Rigid polyurethane foams are use to make different types of insulation, whereas the more flexible foams are used to make the cushioning in cars, furniture, footwear and mattresses.

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