Although soy chemicals (excluding biodiesel) account for a very small portion of soybean oil consumption, this news regarding expansion of soy-based chemical development is still a very good news for the US agriculture industry.
According to the United Soybean Board (USB), soy-based foam made from soybean oil polyol is now being incorporated by more than 30 furniture companies. Cargill and Pittsburgh State University's Kansas Polymer Research Center (KPRC) partnered to develop the first commercial soy-based polyols used in flexible foams for furniture.
Cargill sells the soy polyols product under the brand BiOH.
Polyols are currently available with soy content ranging from 30% to 50% depending on type of application. The USB said the industry is currently working to increase the percentage of soy in foam and hopes to reach 100% soy polyol use equivalent to 67% bio-content in finished foam products (the rest are of course still petro-based).
Companies using soy foam now includes Martha Stewart Living's Good Bed line of mattresses and Crate and Barrel's several upholstered products. Here is a list of companies currently using soy foam.
Ford Motor also said that it is currently using soy-based seat cushions and backs on over 1 million vehicles per year, consuming over 76,000 bushels of soybeans.
Watch out for my article about new industrial uses of fats and oils which will come out on ICIS Chemical Business' April 27 issue.
[Photo of BiOH foam by Cargill]