IFS Chemicals - World Class Polyurethanes
IFS Chemicals - World Class Polyurethanes

Envirofoam Sustain

IFS Chemicals of Norfolk, UK have recently introduced a unique product to the polyurethane chemical industry

  • The Envirofoam Sustain range of formulated polyols are derived from recycled vegetable oils and are suitable for use in the building, refrigeration, marine and water-storage industries
  • Having already served their primary industrial purpose within the food processing industry, vegetable oils are collected, recycled and converted to rigid foam polyols
  • Enviropol R201 has been independently analysed and found to have a bio based content of 86%

This product is used to produce a fully formulated polyol component with 45-60% bio based content and is currently being supplied to manufacturers of 

  • Cold-room panels
  • Commercial refrigerators
  • Hot water storage appliances 
  • Structural Insulated Panels 
  • Timber Frame elements
  • Supermarket display cases

This unique development is significant in that the starting material is not only renewable but is recycled as well. It has recently gained acceptance to the American “BioPreffered Program”, an initiative aimed at “promoting products that may be more benign to the environment”

The insulation products manufactured with this technology not only help the environment but also exhibit excellent processing and material properties

These include very low lambda values, excellent adhesive properties and the ability to use blowing agents with a global warming potential of “less than 1”.

What is Envirofoam Sustain?

Envirofoam Sustain is a cost-effective, low density polymer foam which is produced in the same manner as conventional polyurethane foams. The two-part resin and isocyanate composition can be manufactured on conventional low and high-pressure dispensing equipment.

What are the principal advantages of Envirofoam Sustain?

Envirofoam Sustain combines high technical performance with ease of processing and unique environmental benefits.

What are the main technical advantages of Envirofoam Sustain?

Envirofoam Sustain exhibits the same mechanical and adhesive properties as conventional polyurethanes but has the advantage of improved thermal insulation performance. Foams with an initial lambda value of 0.022 W/mK have been in use for over ten years.

Is Envirofoam Sustain a new technology?

Envirofoam Sustain is a further development of technology originally perfected by IFS in the early 1990s. The technology has been continually refined over the past 20 years, resulting in the optimised products available today.

Which industries can take advantage of the Envirofoam Sustain technology?

Envirofoam Sustain is principally used in those industries that require excellent thermal insulation properties, particularly in those applications which require a non-flammable and environmentally-friendly resin component. Typical products which currently incorporate Envirofoam Sustain are commercial refrigerators, supermarket display cabinets, composite building panels (including Structural Insulated Panels), cold-room panels, water storage tanks, insulated doors and cavity-wall insulation.

Why is Envirofoam Sustain regarded as environmentally-friendly?

Envirofoam Sustain is unique in its chemical composition. A significant part of the traditional polyol component has been replaced with a polyol derived from a renewable and recycled source of vegetable oil. This significantly reduces the proportion of polyol derived from the conventional and unsustainable petrochemical process.

Which vegetable-based polyol is used in Envirofoam Sustain?

The resin component used in the manufacture of Envirofoam Sustain contains a polyol known as Enviropol R201. This polyol is derived from a renewable and recycled source and is therefore quite unlike anything else on the global market.

How are the environmental benefits of Enviropol R201 assessed?

Enviropol R201 has been subjected to a Biobased Content Analysis using the internationally recognized test method, ASTM D6866-08. This analytical technique determines the proportion of fossil content and biobased content. Independent tests show that Enviropol R201 contains 86% Biobased Content (certificate available). However, what is not shown using the ASTM test method is the origin of the vegetable oil.

What is the origin of the vegetable oil used to manufacture Enviropol R201?

Enviropol R201 is derived from a recycled oil, designated LF100. This refined oil is supplied to IFS to a tight technical specification. LF100 is refined from oil collected largely from large-scale industrial processes. This fact is important in terms of carbon footprint. The oil has already fulfilled its usefulness prior to being used again in the manufacture of a biopolyol. The LF100 is particularly consistent in chemical composition and each batch is analysed using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. A typical analytical graph is shown below together with a photograph of one of the road tankers used to collect the recycled vegetable oil.  

How is the LF100 recycled oil converted to a biopolyol?

IFS Chemicals converts the oil to a biopolyol using a technique developed over 20 years ago. The process has been continually refined, resulting in a process which is highly efficient and which requires very little energy. In fact, the energy requirement has been estimated at about 10% of that used in conventional polyol processes.

What level of Enviropol R201 biopolyol is used in Envirofoam Sustain?

The amount of biopolyol used in the Envirofoam Sustain resin component is largely dependent on the specific requirements of the end-use application. However, the incorporation levels are significant. A typical Envirofoam Sustain resin which was subjected to independent analysis has shown a biobased content of 58% (certificate available).

Does Envirofoam Sustain have any other environmental benefits?

Yes, the chemical composition of Envirofoam Sustain allows the use of particularly attractive blowing agents in the foaming process. Many conventional blowing agent gases have a detrimental effect in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (as denoted by their Global Warming Potential, GWP). The blowing agents used in Envirofoam Sustain have a GWP of “less than 1”.

Do the components of Envirofoam Sustain have any inherent hazards?

From a health and safety perspective, the components are very similar to those used in conventional polyurethane technology. The MDI isocyanate is a polymeric grade with low volatility and is treated in an identical manner to conventional grades. The formulated resin component is not flammable (independent certificate available) and does not contain any hydrocarbon blowing agents.

Do the properties of Envirofoam Sustain insulation differ from conventional grades?

The mechanical, adhesive and thermal properties of Envirofoam Sustain are somewhat similar to those of conventional grades of foam insulation. However, Envirofoam Sustain has a low lambda value (0.022-0.023 W/mK) giving rise to low U-values in buildings and low energy ratings in appliances.

Does Envirofoam Sustain have any formal environmental credentials?

Yes, Envirofoam Sustain  has obtained approval under the U.S. BioPreffered program. Consequently, the liquid resin can be labelled as a certified product, the only  polyurethane chemical to receive this accolade (see label below).

Who administers the biopreffered program?

The scheme is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. The U.S Congress directed the establishment of a label for biobased products and a program to establish a preferred Federal purchasing program for biobased products.

What are the main goals of the biopreffered program?

The goals are threefold:

1. To spur the development of the biobased industrial base through value-added agricultural processing and manufacturing in rural communities.

2. To enhance the Nation’s energy security, by substituting biobased products for fossil energy based products derived from imported oil and natural gas.

3. To reduce the Nation’s environmental impact by promoting products that may be more benign to the environment.

Is there a European version of the biopreffered program?

To date, there is no European version of the scheme but governments are currently considering the introduction of a similar program. There is growing recognition that many commercial/industrial products could contain significant levels of biobased materials.

Is Envirofoam Sustain flame-retardant?

Envirofoam Sustain meets the normal requirements of BS 4735 (less than 125mm flamespread). We also offer a grade (Sustain 16.456) which has a higher level of fire resistance as measured by ANSI FM 4880. The convective flame spread parameter (FSPc ) of this grade is 0.13s-0.5 (independent certificate available), well below the desired value of 0.39s-0.5.

Can Envirofoam Sustain be processed on conventional equipment?

Yes, the product can be treated in exactly the same way as conventional polyurethanes, using either low-pressure or high-pressure dispensing equipment.

Are there any processing differences with Envirofoam Sustain?

The only noticeable difference between Envirofoam Sustain and conventional polyurethanes is that Sustain grades exhibit improved foam flowability. This leads to improved foam distribution and a more consistent density distribution. It may require a small alteration to air-release vents in panel/appliance fixtures in order to prevent excess foam seepage. IFS Technical Service personnel are available to assist in converting to Envirofoam Sustain.

Envirofoam grades of polyurethane have been used by the insulation industry for more than 15 years. These products have been based on Natural Oil Polyols using a process perfected by IFS Chemicals Ltd in the 1990s. Envirofoam Sustain is based on that same proven technology but utilizes recycled vegetable oil as the starting derivative as well as the very latest blowing agent packages.

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