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Polyurethanes play a significant role in our day-to-day lives. Whether we are walking or driving, eating or sleeping, working or playing, the chances are that the products we are using are made of polyurethane materials. Polyurethanes are in the car we drive, the bed we sleep in and the shoes we wear - in short, one of the most versatile families of polymers known to man.
Many different types of catalyst are used in the production of polyurethanes, but elastomers - polymers with the elastic properties of rubber - are widely produced using a mercury based catalyst. Alternative more environmentally friendly catalyst types have long been explored, but mercury remains best performance in class for many applications. It has several features that are difficult to replicate - most notable is the snapcure effect, where the polyurethane can be poured into a mould, remaining fluid until the mould is full. The catalyst then gets working and the hard plastic is formed quickly, allowing a fast release from the mould. Being able to mimic this performance gave us the name for these products - the SNAPCURE range.
Good snapcure products have been found, but never one that was stable to water - another essential benefit of mercury based catalysts. However, in 2007, the VERTEC business created a water stable titanium based catalyst for various commercial applications, including as it turned out - polyurethanes catalysis. By modifying this new catalyst and applying it to commercial formulations, a new range of environmentally friendly titanium based products have been created that not only match the snapcure of mercury catalysts but are also water stable and can exhibit some physical property benefits.
This range of novel proprietary products could have further applications in the coatings and adhesives markets within the overall polyurethane industry.