Applied Catalysis A: General, Vol.221, No.1-2, 303-335, 2001
Trends in industrial catalysis in the polyurethane industry
Catalysis has been an important field for polyurethane chemistry and many improvements have been accomplished in recent years. Some of the greatest challenges however still remain. There is not yet a satisfactory catalytic way for the direct oxidation of propene to propene oxide in spite of ruthless activities by all major players over decades. New methods of catalysts screening and improved tools for catalyst characterization may help to solve this problem in the near future. Catalyst development in the area of polyether synthesis has recently opened new routes to completely new products. New raw materials may become attractive and new polyether polyol structures will be accessible with new catalysts. The range of new polymers will open up new opportunities. In the field of isocyanates the optimization of all manufacturing steps (nitration, hydrogenation, phosgenation) is an ongoing process since commercial production started an incremental improvements are accomplished and implemented constantly. Major improvements for existing processes, including all their catalytic reaction steps, are not to be expected in the near future. Significant improvements seem only possible by alternative ways of isocyanate manufacturing. In this area, catalytic reactions and the modern tools of catalysts research will play a key-role. However, as for all new developments, they will have only a chance on realization on a. commercial scale, if they are economically competitive to well established processes.