New biodegradable polyurethane foams are developed from wheat straw

January 19, 2021

Every year around 734 million tons of wheat straw are produced worldwide, a large amount of waste, which is cheap and has had no well-defined use until now. Recently, the RNM-271 Chemical Engineering and FQM-383 NANOVAL Organic Chemistry research groups at the University of Córdoba have been able to give a new use to this agricultural excess material, by using it as the foundation in order to manufacture polyurethane foams.

Also known as foam rubber, this plastic material, often manufactured from petroleum by-products, is extremely versatile within the industry and has multiple uses in the construction and automobile sectors as a sealant as well as a thermal and acoustic insulator.

The new paper, published on the cover of Polymers, and on which Chile's Advanced Polymers Research Center (CIPA) also participated, has found a new purpose for this wheat waste. After this waste is liquefied, polyols are obtained. These polyols are one of the key compounds that play a role in the chemical reaction that makes polyurethane foams.

To date, castor oil has been one of the main candidates in the race to obtain sustainable polyurethane foam that does not require petroleum. The issue, as explained by one of the main authors of the paper, Esther Rincón, is that this vegetable oil "does not offer complete hardness and dryness once exposed to air", one of the keys to proper rubber foam formation.

For this reason, the new research proposed substituting 50% of this castor oil for wheat straw, with results that offer up very similar characteristics to those generated by traditional manufacturing processes that use non-renewable compounds: "We were able to obtain very desirable parameters in the manufacturing of foam, converting 96% of the wheat used with an almost maximum performance", explains Esther Rincón. In addition, as pointed out by the researcher, they obtained higher levels of biodegradability than those reached by the products currently on the market, meaning that this material takes less time to decompose.

Use in plant nurseries

While these new polyurethane foams could have infinite applications and even be manufactured with other kinds of biomass, the research group, in the second stage of their study, will use them in plant nurseries to help with plant growth. "Instead of watering the plant, and with the aim of dealing with drought problems and preventing overwatering, we would inject the water into the foam so that the plant can consume it as needed", explains the researcher.
-end-


University of Córdoba

Related Polymers Articles from Brightsurf:

Seeking the most effective polymers for personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment, like face masks and gowns, is generally made of polymers.

Ultraheavy precision polymers
An environmentally friendly and sustainable synthesis of ''heavyweight'' polymers with very narrow molecular weight distributions is an important concept in modern polymer chemistry.

FSU researchers help develop sustainable polymers
Researchers at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering have made new discoveries on the effects of temperature on sustainable polymers.

Structural colors from cellulose-based polymers
A surface displays structural colors when light is reflected by tiny, regular structural elements in a transparent material.

Growing polymers with different lengths
ETH researchers have developed a new method for producing polymers with different lengths.

Exciting new developments for polymers made from waste sulfur
Researchers at the University of Liverpool are making significant progress in the quest to develop new sulfur polymers that provide an environmentally friendly alternative to some traditional petrochemical based plastics.

Polymers can fine-tune attractions between suspended nanocubes
In new research published in EPJ E, researchers demonstrate a high level of control over a type of colloid in which the suspended particles take the form of hollow, nanoscale cubes.

Functional polymers to improve thermal stability of bioplastics
One of the key objectives for contemporary chemistry is to improve thermomechanical properties of polymers, in particular, thermostability of bioplastics.

Fluorescent technique brings aging polymers to light
Modern society relies on polymers, such as polypropylene or polyethylene plastic, for a wide range of applications, from food containers to automobile parts to medical devices.

Polymers to the rescue! Saving cells from damaging ice
Research published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society by University of Utah chemists Pavithra Naullage and Valeria Molinero provides the foundation to design efficient polymers that can prevent the growth of ice that damages cells.

Read More: Polymers News and Polymers Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.