MINNEAPOLIS -- Polyurethene foam; you can find in furniture, your car seats, helmets, pillows, jackets, and even on your kitchen rug! This foam, traditionally has been made from petroleum products is now being redeveloped at the University of Minnesota to be completely recyclable.
"We've developed a foam that we can take and break down to it's starting components and use those starting components and make it into new foams." said Tessie Panthan, Graduate Student.
Like styrofoam, polyurethane foam takes hundreds of years to break down. With it being recyclable, it can skip the landfill and get re purposed into something new.
The group of students; two chemists, and two engineers, in the lab are recent winners of the DOW SISCA Challenge which the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota hosts each year to challenge students to find answers to have eco-friendly solutions to the worlds problems.
"The competition evaluates the participants on five different criteria the most important ones are excellence in research, innovation, and scalability and impact."said Brian Bell, Institute on the Environment, UMN
The biggest challenge the group now faces is how well their recyclable foam can be adapted in the real world.
"Our starting blocks work the exact same way as other starting blocks made from petroleum. We can basically make these foams the exact same way as they are made commercially. We could use it today in the same sort of process and time scale that you make commercial foams." said Tessie.
Research will continue with this foam to make it more durable and cheaper than the petroleum foams sold today.