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Elevance presents latest findings on C18 polyols at polyurethanes conference

At the recent Center for the Polyurethanes Industry 2015 Polyurethanes Technical Conference in Orlando, FL, specialty chemicals company Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc. (Woodridge, IL) presented the latest findings on its C18 polyols for bio-based polyurethane. The presenter, Allyson Beuhler, received the award for best paper in the Renewable Content Polyols section.

“We presented performance data in the areas in which we play, which include thermoplastics (TPU), adhesives and coatings using polyurethane dispersions,” noted Bruce Grotefend, Market Development Manager for Elevance, in a post-conference interview.

In these areas, Elevance is doing some of its own technical development work and working with others. The company’s first foray was last year’s conference, where TPU performance data based on polyols from Elevance’s commercially available C18 Diacid was presented. The solvent and water resistance and hydrolytic stability of the thermoplastics were highlighted.

“One of the things we learned last year is that people appreciated the data we provided,” said Grotefend. “The route to performance in polyurethanes is through the polyols, and over the past year we’ve started developing a class of polyols that takes advantage of a patented process to produce C18-based materials that is unique to Elevance.” 

Elevance currently has several polyols in development that are being scaled up. Coatings are one area of focus for applications. These coatings are derived from water-based urethane dispersions and used in applications such as leather and textile coatings, which, Grotefend noted, is “a large and growing market, as that business wants to be more eco-friendly.” These coatings offer a “tremendous ability to protect the surfaces of what’s coated, provide solvent and water resistance and yet remain flexible.” 

These coatings have different melt points and molecular weights, and can be applied to different substrates such as wood, leather and textiles that need the protective properties, Grotefend said. Elevance is moving quickly with these latest developments into applications for automotive interiors and other leather products, which have to be coated for abrasion resistance and to protect against water and spills. The company is currently working with manufacturing companies that supply these specialty coatings to adopt Elevance’s new polyols.

Elevance polyols bridge the gap between polyether and polyester polyols that are used to make polyurethanes. “Using C18 chemistry as the base material, the PU is water resistant and hydrolytically stable," said Grotefend. "It’s exciting technology and, in addition to being performance-based, it is also bio-based.”

Elevance’s low-pressure, low-temperature biorefinery process—the source of the key building blocks to make these novel polyols—uses innovations in metathesis catalysis that consume significantly less energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent compared to petrochemical technologies. A highly efficient, selective metathesis catalyst is used to break down natural oils and recombine fragments, resulting in a process with lower source pollution, production costs and capital expenditures than petrochemical refineries. The technology allows biorefineries to produce the same end products and to be capable of running on multiple renewable oil feed stocks, including palm, mustard, soybean, canola and, when they become commercially available, jatropha or algal oils.

The company is currently supplying customers from its 180,000-MT biorefinery in Gresik, Indonesia, which is a joint venture with Wilmar International Ltd., and it has a biorefinery collaboration with Genting Plantations Berhad and a partnership with Versalis that enable flexibility and scaling for rapid commercialization.

Grotefend concluded by noting that one of the fastest growing market segments for polyurethanes and Elevance polyols is footwear, in particular high-performance footwear such as soccer shoes that require lighter and tougher materials.

“During the last World Cup, several companies were advertising shoes made with high-performance polyurethanes that make them lighter and [more] resistant to the elements,” said Grotefend. “With the performance data that we have developed, we and our customers have the ability to go downstream to end users and sell them on the performance and the properties enabled with Elevance C18 polyols.”

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