The chemistry at the core of polyurethane materials is the simple reaction of an isocyanate with an alcohol. Chemists have come up with countless elaborations on that motif. Adjustments to the polymerization catalysts, monomers, and other ingredients lead to commercial products as diverse as memory foam mattresses and structural plywood beams. Though these samples at Huntsman’s R&D lab outside of Houston look like French pastries and miniature mushroom clouds, they’re rigid foam formulations the firm is optimizing for spray and panel polyurethane insulation.
Credit: Craig Bettenhausen/C&EN
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