The scientists say they have created an alternative to polyurethane foam using a sugar derivative
Scientists have developed a method of creating a sugar-derived foam that they say is both recyclable and as efficient as traditional polyurethanes.
Reported in the ACS Macro Letters journal, they claim the new, chemically recyclable foam is a potential way to reduce future waste.
Polyurethanes are highly versatile materials. In addition to furniture and clothing, manufacturers use them in electronics, cars, floors and medical devices.
But the materials come from petroleum, and efforts to recycle them are limited. To tackle the huge amount of waste this creates, scientists are pursuing more sustainable options.
Scientist Marc A. Hillmyer and his colleagues say that they have developed an efficient method to make a sugar-derived rubbery polyester compound called poly(β-methyl-δ-valerolactone), or PMVL, that can be used in new chemically-recyclable polyurethanes.
Using this new polymer, the researchers made flexible polyurethane foams that were comparable in performance to commercial analogs.
To test whether the foams could be recycled, the team first added a catalyst, then heated the materials to a high temperature. Through this process, the researchers recovered up to 97 percent of the starting β-methyl-δ-valerolactone (MVL) monomer in high purity. The researchers then used what they recovered to re-make PMVL with essentially identical properties.