“Our goal was to have high process reliability,” Fehrenbacher said.
He pointed out that foam makers need to adapt their PU processes to use these secondary polyols.
The production cost of the recycled polyol lies between E1.4 and 1.7/kg, as compared to E1.8/kg for conventional polyol. The work indicated that, with secondary polyol use, the system cost could be cut to E1.49 /kg as opposed to E1.69/kg with standard (virgin) polyol. This work was done using a formulation with 65 percent polyol, 30 percent isocyanate and 5 percent additives.
The research also raised the ecological profile of acidolysis by optimising the process with low-emission catalysts and stabilisers. Low emissions are important for flexible foam, and levels can be cut by 50-60 percent, with the right ingredients, Fehrenbacher indicated.
According to the Fraunhofer expert, the pilot plant will be expanded in cooperation with various producers of soft foam, combining several foams to get better quality polyols.
He also noted that about 15 percent of virgin polyol replacement is the appropriate amount: “If you use more polyols, the physical properties get worse,” he commented.
“Foams would be harder and I can’t imagine producing mattress foam with 40 percent of recycled polyol.”
A recycling specialist
Rampf Ecosystems, which specialises in recycling polyurethane and PET, says it has been designing recycling solutions to recover raw materials from polyurethanes for all kinds of requirements for the last 20 years – in the face of rising raw materials prices.
“The way we think and act is focused on customer needs – a fact that derives from our many years of experience in the polyurethane sector,” said Marco Werth, sales and marketing director at Rampf Ecosystems. The aim is to develop engineering technology to recycle all polyurethane waste, while factoring in economic considerations.
This work tackles the challenges posed by dwindling resources.
The company, which has been part of the Rampf Group since 2003, says it views PU production residues and post-consumer PET from packaging not as waste but as valuable sources of raw materials.
These materials are also turned into polyols, known as Recypols or Petols, which then flow back into the PU production chain.
Rampf Ecosystems has also strengthened its systems supply business, in order to market the recycled polyols more effectively. As a result, these high-quality products are used in a wide variety of industries.
Industrial scale acidolysis