22.09.2022 change 22.09.2022

Gdańsk scientists obtained polyurethane from corn

Credit: Adobe Stock Credit: Adobe Stock

A method of obtaining substances necessary for the production of polyurethane from corn without processing crude oil has been developed by researchers at the Gdańsk University of Technology.

An important group of compounds polyurethane is used in, among other things, acoustic foams, paints, varnishes, and adhesives.

Dr. Paulina Parcheta-Szwindowska from the Department of Polymer Technology at the university’s Faculty of Chemistry who developed the new method together with Professor Janusz Datta, said: “Polyurethane materials stand out among plastics in a peculiar way. Due to their mechanical properties, durability included, they are used in various industries, starting from medical, through automotive industry, to construction, often for extremely different applications.”

“However, polyurethanes are quite expensive mainly due to the prices of intermediate materials used for their production and the prices of crude oil. Therefore, alternative sources of intermediate materials are explored, such that would reduce the production costs and exceed the intended use and application of polyurethane materials.”

One of the two main components of polyurethanes are polyols which the researchers have obtained from products of corn fermentation. Because they have the same parameters as compounds from crude oil, the polyols can be used in currently operating polyurethane production plants.

It is also less expensive, reduces CO2 emissions and can use biological raw material that was rejected by the food industry due to its inferior quality.

Already patented in Poland, the researchers have now applied for a European patent.

Dr. Parcheta-Szwindowska said: “We hope that our bio-polyols will find consumers in European countries producing polyester polyols. Our innovation will help reduce the carbon footprint and is a way to become independent from oil resources in this area.”

The researcher is also looking for business partners interested in commercialising the invention. under the Innovation Incubator 4.0 competition. Thanks to funding from the Incubator, her team took part in the International Fair of Inventions and Innovations Show INTARG 2022, during which the researchers received three medals: gold for the 'Method for obtaining reduced flammability cast polyurethanes', silver for 'Linear polyester bio-polyols and the method of their preparation', and bronze for 'Method for obtaining linear bio-based polyester polyols'. 

They were also granted the special AWARD of World Invention Intellectual Property Association (WIIPA) for 'Method for obtaining reduced flammability cast polyurethanes' (with Izabela Zagożdżon and Joanna Niesiobędzka).

Dr. Parcheta-Szwindowska plans to continue this research as part of a scientific internship financed from the Europium programme. Her students are already working on transparent polyurethane elastomers.

Marek Matacz

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