030023: Renewable, Low-Cost Polyols and Polyesters from Natural Oils

As petroleum usage continues to increase and reserves of petroleum continue to be depleted, polymer manufacturers seek alternative methods for making useful materials currently derived from petroleum raw materials. Because of a personal desire to help understand and exploit 'green' technologies, the inventor of this technology has been studying bio-based material sciences since 2000. After a few years of work, and several experiments, it became apparent that a simple method to convert plant oils into polyols was possible in a one-pot process. The resulting polyols and polyurethanes have sufficient properties that they are potential low-cost additions to commercially produced polyurethanes and can be added to current petroleum-based polyurethanes in up to about a 30% ratio by weight.


The patented technology describes methods for solvent-free processes making polyol fatty acid polyesters useful for polyurethanes. Hydroxyl content of the resultant compositions depends upon the choice and amount of multifunctional hydroxyl compound used during each preparation. In subsequent steps, the hydroxyl groups are reacted with an isocyanate like polymetric diphenylmethane diisocyanate to form a variety of useful polyurethanes. The processes can be adapted to many plant and animal sources of oils and the resultant product material properties are controlled by control of hydroxyl number.


  • Green: Polyols and polyesters are produced from a wide variety of potential natural, renewable source oils. Glycerol and Glycerin are potential natural source oils that could be in large supply at low cost in the future.
  • Low cost: Solvent free, simple processes and readily available catalysts imply manufacturing savings compared to more complex alternatives.
  • Flexible: Process can accept many varieties of natural raw materials and provide products with controlled hydroxyl number to meet target material parameters.


The largest material volumes are in flexible foam applications (seat cushions, etc.) as a low cost and renewable base that can be added up to 30 weight percent to polymers made from petroleum raw materials for the same applications. The second largest material volumes are in hard board insulation foam applications (building materials, etc.) as a low cost and renewable base that can be added up to 25 weight percent to polymers made from petroleum raw materials for the same applications.

Development Status

The technology is still in research and development. Multiple experiments with variants of potential raw materials and processes have been performed in a laboratory environment and some preliminary material characterization of resultant compounds completed. Experiments beyond those described in the patent are complete. Specific applications will require research and development to optimize the process to meet desired specifications.

IP Protection Status

US 7,125,950 B2 (issued 10/24/06)
Patent Information: