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British Rubber & Polyurethane Products Association


Foam polymers prove their prowess

Posted on 09 May 2014

The polymer foam market has seen an upsurge in activity in the past year.New applications are finding homes in sectors ranging from automotive and construction to packaging and aerospace.

This is due largely to investment in research and development which is seeing product launches from foam polymer manufacturers that tackle concerns about the effect of plastic foam on the environment.

Dow Building Solutions, a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical, has launched into Europe its first Styrofoam extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam product containing a new polymeric flame retardant (PolyFR) technology. The material, branded Impaxx, was made for US-based Coastal Automotive, a supplier of energy absorbing materials to the automotive, motorsports and packaging industries.

Dow says Impaxx is the first commercial XPS foam product containing PolyFR available in Europe. It is manufactured at the Dow Styrofoam plants in Lavrion, Greece, and Druseheim, France.

Coastal Automotive will use the Impaxx material to produce pre-cut and custom moulded parts for automotive applications such as overhead systems and doors and pillar trims to help absorb energy during impact.

Meanwhile, Solvay Specialty Polymers has launched a high-performance polysulfone (PSU) foam grade that has a low halogen content and low-smoke performance for wire and cable applications. The material was launched at Wire 2014 exhibition in Dusseldorf last month.

Michael Finelli, senior vice-president head of Sulfone Polymers for Solvay Specialty Polymers, says: “The industry is pushing for eco-friendly alternatives in wire and cable and Solvay has responded with a proprietary polymer solution that meets the low-halogen, low-smoke requirements while providing exceptional performance in these demanding applications.”

Solvay claims Udel P-1703 NT offers a significant cost advantage over competing resins, such as fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP), because of its lower specific gravity (1.24) and higher foam rate (50% to 60%). The material’s high foam rate also imparts a low dielectric constant (1.8 to 2) to meet cable electrical requirements without the need for significant modifications to existing constructions.

And DuPont Fluorochemicals is touting a newly developed polyurethane foaming agent, which it claims improves thermal insulation efficiency and lowers global warming potential.

Formacel 1100 is primarily aimed at the rigid polyurethane sector where insulation properties are key. It could also be a viable foaming alternative for use in flexible polyurethane, says DuPont. The company says the product can compete against hydrocarbon blowing agents and conventional hydrofluorocarbons.

DuPont says that in appliance trials, Formacel 1100 decreased energy consumption by up to 12%. In addition, the foaming agent has 99% lower global warming potential than HFCs now used in rigid polyurethane insulating foam and has zero ozone depleting potential, DuPont claims.

The additive will help customers operate more sustainably, notes Thierry Vanlancker, president of DuPont Chemicals & Fluorochemicals.

DuPont Fluorochemicals global business director, Kathryn McCord, says that her company will invest in large-scale and lower-cost production of Formacel 1100. It will start up small-scale production this year and is forming plans for world-class capacity for long-term market needs.

The new agent joins several other Formacel foaming chemicals DuPont supplies for polyurethane and in extruded polystyrene foam.