The Urethane Blog

Students Win BASF Contest

Proposed bio-based, degradable polyurethane foam wins BASF competition

By Kari Embree
Published: June 16th, 2015

To commemorate its 150 year anniversary, BASF (Florham Park, NJ) hosted a science competition at its headquarters in New Jersey. The objective for the competition was to solve the following challenge: What chemistries can be used to create lightweight solutions with improved end of life management? Taking home first place were students from the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department at the University of Minnesota. The winning technology was based on the introduction of a sugar-based Mevalonate (MVL) monomer and its polyesterol (PMVL) made by solvent free polymerization that would ultimately transform the polyurethane industry.

Winners of the BASF Science Challenge.

“This novel idea, presented by the students from the University of Minnesota, clearly illustrated how this new technology could potentially replace traditional petroleum-based polyols,” said Elvira Stesikova, Ph.D., BASF Project Manager.

Similar to traditional polyols, PMVL polyesterols exhibit tunable properties associated with varied molecular weight and crosslinking functionality. However, unlike currently commercialized polyols, PMVL polyesterols offer a solvent-free process, utilize a sustainable raw material source, and present improved biodegradability and recyclability. In the long term, this technology is viewed as a step towards isocyanate-free polyurethanes.

Four teams of students presented proposals that were judged by a panel of BASF executives. The ideas will be shared among BASF business units for possible further development. The three finalist teams represented Georgia Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Connecticut.

All the presenting teams received $5,000 and the winning team members won an all-expense-paid trip to the BASF Summer Course to be held in Ludwigshafen, Germany, in August.