From Plants to Footwear: The Science Behind Plant-Based Polyurethane
The history behind polyurethane
Polyurethane (PU) was discovered in the 1930s as an alternative to rubber, and is highly regarded for its durable, flexible, and chemical resistance properties.
In the 1950s, polyurethane foam (PU foam) was popularized and found in almost all aspects of our daily lives. From footwear, apparel, furniture, bedding, and automobiles, you are probably sitting on, sleeping on, driving in, or wearing PU foam.
How polyurethane foam is made
It starts with a few key chemicals mixed:
Polyols + Additives + Isocyanate = urethane bonds.
This reaction creates the polyurethane foam that we all love for its comfort and performance.
Today, PU foams can be made conventionally from oil-derived chemicals (petrochemistry) or from plants. Both oil and plant-based PU foams go through a similar production process, but it is the development and raw materials that make plant-based polyurethane foams more sustainable and allow for high performance properties.
Where conventional oil-based polyurethane foam comes from?
Simply put, oil-based PU is made from petrochemicals or fossil fuels, mainly crude oil. These non-renewable resources have a high impact on the environment and use toxic materials that pollute the soil and degrade into microplastics.
How plant-based polyurethane foam is disrupting the foam industry
FATES®, Evoco’s plant-based foam, starts by extracting glucose, starches, and other building blocks from plants. We harness the basic components from these plants and use them to develop plant-based chemistry, resulting in a diverse range of formulas that meet a wide variety of technical specifications such as density, tensile strength, elongation and more. FATES eco-foam is made from up to 80% plants, reducing GHGs (greenhouse gas) emission by up to 70% in comparison to conventional oi-based PU foam This positive environmental impact is substantiated by a third-party verified, cradle–to–gate LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) model. In addition, FATES does not use heavy metal catalysts, and is shown to degrade back into the earth, creating a circular material.
It starts with plants
We harness the power of plants into chemistry
Using our chemistry, we develop plant-based materials used in footwear and more
How plant-based polyurethane foam can push innovation in the footwear industry
PU foam is widely used in footwear for its desirable properties of cushioning and shock-absorbing properties, flexibility, and its ability to be a completely customizable component. Our team of scientists and engineers have developed patented formulations to enhance PU foam properties and create a high-performing sustainable alternative.
As more deliverables and constraints are set into footwear development such as performance, sustainability, supply chain integration and consumer expectations, our plant-based chemistry platform allows to integrate these various factors to design the perfect material formulation for any footwear project.
As the footwear industry adapts to consumers expanding their interest in sustainable features and benefits, FATES plant-based foam allows for a seamless, high performance, low impact solution.