BALTIMORE (ICIS)--US-based Shepherd Chemical won on Wednesday the Polyurethane Innovation Award for its bismuth-based catalysts that are compatible with the latest generation of blowing agents.
These products are the BiCATs 8840 and 8842 water-stable bismuth catalysts.
Shepherd initially developed the catalysts as a substitute for those that are much more toxic, particularly those based on mercury.
However, the need to find a replacement catalyst for polyurethanes has become much more urgent because regulators are in the process of phasing out one of the main classes of blowing agents.
Blowing agents are a key component for foam polyurethane systems. They create the cells that are responsible for the impressive insulating properties of the material.
However, blowing agents are not problem free. The latest generation, which include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are ozone friendly, but they are also powerful greenhouse gases.
Regulators are in the process of phasing out these blowing agents. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing a list of alternatives to HFCs under its SNAP programme, short for significant new alternatives policy.
Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) are among these alternatives, and they make up the fourth generation of blowing agents.
In the case of HFOs, they can be incompatible with traditional catalysts. However, Shepherd's bismuth-based catalysts are compatible.
"Right now, we're just at the beginning of this. Our patent application was just published in July," said Rob Hart, head of research for Shepherd Chemical. "What we're seeing right now in most formulations, it's literally a drop-in for the existing metal catalyst."
He added, "The convergence of our innovation with the hydrofluoroolefins has really been fortuitous and it will allow formulators to make the greenest resins yet."
The other finalists for the Polyurethane Innovation Award are Huntsman’s VITROX HC 98010 Polyol with SUPRASEC 9801 Isocyanate and Dow Chemical's VORA Zzz foam technology.
The Polyurethanes Technical Conference is hosted by the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry of the American Chemistry Council (ACC). It runs through Wednesday.