Christophe Detrembleur awarded a WEL-T Advanced Grant for his research into polyurethane foams

Christophe Detrembleur, FNRS Research Director at the Centre d'Etude et de Recherche sur les Macromolécules (CERM) in the ULiège Faculty of Science, has been awarded a WEL-T Advanced Grant for his project entitled "Cascade exotherms to stimulate self-foaming of isocyanate-free polyurethane formulations at ambient temperature", which aims to develop innovative strategies for producing more sustainable PU foams.


rowing demand from the construction (insulation), furniture and automotive (comfort) sectors is boosting the polyurethane (PU) foam market. Their success lies in the ease and versatility of the manufacturing process, based on the reaction between polyisocyanates, polyols and water. However, this chemistry is currently facing major constraints linked to the use of toxic isocyanates due to REACH restrictions on use, regular supply shortages leading to price volatility, and difficulties in recycling materials at the end of their life. The new European directives aimed at decarbonising the plastics sector are also encouraging players in the field to rethink the manufacture of PU foams through eco-design, encouraging the use of bio-resources and/or gaseous effluents (such as CO2 ) while incorporating the recyclability dimension.

Driven by these challenges, the team led by Christophe Detrembleur, FNRS Research Director and researcher at CERM (CESAM Research Unit/Faculty of Science) at ULiège, recently reported the first proof of concept of non-isocyanate self-foaming PU foams (NIPU) based on products derived from the transformation and valorization of CO2 (cyclic carbonates), amines and water.

Conceptually, cyclic carbonates have a dual role here, forming the polyurethane matrix and generating the blowing agent (CO2 )," explains Christophe Detrembleur. The major obstacle to the deployment of this technology lies in the heat treatment required to induce foaming, which is incompatible with some industrial processes.

The CHEMISTRY project, led by the researcher, proposes innovative strategies for foaming NIPUs - isocyanate-free polyurethane foams - from ambient temperature formulations. The reduced carbon footprint will be guaranteed by using bio- and CO2 -sourced monomers, while circularity will be ensured by processes enabling to recycle foams into foams. "Our ultimate aim is to demonstrate that more sustainable foams can be produced in Europe from locally available resources (CO2 and bio-resources) using technologies that are more respectful of the environment and health, and potentially transferable to industrial processes".

Read > More sustainable and recyclable polyurethane foams

About Wel Research Institute

The WEL Research Institute supports excellent strategic research within its departments intending to develop breakthrough innovations that will impact health and sustainable transition.

WelT fellowships are funded by the Wel Research Institute (WELRI), set up by the Walloon Region in 2009 to support excellent strategic research in biotechnology life sciences. The Wel RI offers two types of funding: Welbio for life sciences and WEL-T for engineering sciences, chemistry and physics.

Your contact at ULiège

Christophe Detrembleur

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