A group of researchers used wheat waste to create polyurethane foam. Scientists spoke about their work in the journal Polymers.
About 734 million tons of wheat straw are produced annually worldwide. This is a huge amount of cheap waste that has not yet found a clearly defined application. Recently, research teams RNM-271 Chemical Engineering and FQM-383 NANOVAL Organic Chemistry at the University of Cordoba could re-use this agricultural surplus material, using it as the basis for the production of polyurethane foam.
Polyurethane foams are a group of gas-filled plastics based on polyurethanes. This plastic material, also known as foam rubber, is often made from petroleum by-products and versatile. It has many uses in the construction and automotive industries as a sealant and thermal and acoustic insulator.
In the study, scientists found a use for wheat waste. After liquefying them, they obtained polyols. They are one of the key compounds involved in the chemical reaction that produces polyurethane foams.
Today castor oil is one of the main candidates for the creation of oil-free polyurethane foam. The problem is that this oil does not provide the required hardness and dryness when it comes into contact with air. The new development with wheat straw turned out to be stronger than analogs.
While these new polyurethane foams could have an infinite number of uses and even be produced using other biomass types, the team will use them in plant nurseries in the second phase of their study. “Instead of watering the plant to address drought and prevent over-watering, we inject water into the foam so the plant can consume it as needed,” explained one of the authors of the article, Esther Rincon.