The urethane polyaddition reaction was discovered about 80 years ago. Since then this chemistry has further developed into many industrial applications and grown into a multibillion dollar business. The versatility of polyurethanes is founded in a broad spectrum of properties which can be achieved ranging from flexible to rigid and from compact to foamed by choosing suitable combinations of starting materials, the key raw materials being polyol and isocyanate. While on the industrial megaton scale the number of isocyanate building blocks is quite limited, there is a huge choice of polyols and additives available to achieve tailor-made polymer properties for various applications. For the future development of polyurethanes, the two major trends, i) the further improvement of all sustainability characteristics and ii) digitalization in product and process development, are discussed. The former is reflected in four main areas: the production of improved insulation materials to reduce energy consumption; production of raw materials with an improved carbon footprint; odor and emission reduction in indoor applications; and recycling of production and consumer waste. The present review concludes with a few examples as to how digitalization can change and accelerate research and development work in the future.
- industrial emissions
- polymers for the future