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Progress in Sustainable Foam Blowing Agent Technology

SpecialChem / Apr 19, 2010

Manufacturers of foamed plastics, important components in safety, insulation, weight-saving and other applications continue to face a range of challenges as consumers and the public demand the use of more environmentally friendly and sustainable materials and processes. In blowing agent use, zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) is no longer enough. Now foam producers are being asked to also consider the global warming potential (GWP) of blowing agents. The Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer is significantly influencing the choice of blowing agents used for foaming plastic materials and the impact they have on the environment. Currently the Montreal Protocol calls for the staged phase out of HCFCs by 2030, but does not place any restriction on HFCs. HFCs and hydrocarbons both have higher thermal conductivities relative to the HCFCs and CFCs that they replaced, causing inferior insulation performance which is of concern for the appliance and construction market sectors. DuPont Fluoroproducts’ new blowing agent FEA 1100 for polyurethane foams shows low vapor thermal conductivity, low toxicity, zero ODP and a very low GWP of 5 as well as non-flammability. Honeywell International is developing a series of fourth generation blowing agents based on its hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) platform. Arkema is developing a range of HFO based fourth generation blowing agents to replace HFCs as low GWP blowing agents used in construction applications. ReBioFoam is a collaborative project coordinated by Novamont involving 10 European partners to develop protective foam packaging made from bioplastics. Synbra Technology is building an expanded polylactic acid (EPLA) plant, targeted for start up later this year to produce BioFoam.

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