Environmental Update
Soybean Oil a Viable Alternative in Manufacturing Polyurethanes

Soybean oil can replace petrochemical ingredients in the manufacturing process of a variety of industrial products, including adhesives, plastics and coatings. (Photo courtesy of the United Soybean Board and the soybean checkoff)
More than 78 million pounds of thermoplastics resins were used in the plastics industry in 2001. As this market — the fourth largest manufacturing industry in the United States — continues to grow in demand, new products are being introduced in an effort to reduce dependency on foreign petroleum markets.

A new material manufactured by Urethane Soy Systems Co., Princeton, IL, uses soybean oil in place of petrochemicals to create a polyol used in manufacturing polyurethanes. SoyOyl was developed in part with funding from the United Soybean Board and the soybean checkoff.

The material is less expensive than petrochemical resources and uses a readily available renewable source of chemical building blocks for polyurethanes. Polyols made from SoyOyl react similarly to petroleum-based polyols in polyurethane formulations, producing rigid and flexible foam urethane composites with equivalent or better physical properties. Using soybean oil in an end market such as plastics also adds value to our nation’s agricultural resources.

SoyOyl is now a major component in a new carpet backing system. (Photo courtesy of the United Soybean Board and the soybean checkoff)
Two soy-based products are available: SoyOyl P38N and GC5N. P38N is a two-functional, 53 hydroxyl polyol suitable for flexible urethane applications. It is compatible with conventional polyols, catalysts and mixing equipment. In some studies, P38N was shown to lower glass transitions and improve high-temperature properties, and provided improved hydrophilicity. GC5N is a three-functional, 275 hydroxyl polyol suitable for semi-flexible and rigid applications.

Currently, several companies are using SoyOyl in their polyurethane applications. Ultra Foam Inc., a manufacturer of polyurethane products for original equipment manufacturers, is using SoyOyl technology. Universal Textile Technologies is manufacturing polyurethane carpet backing and padding from SoyOyl polyols. In addition, a spray-foam insulation has been developed from SoyOyl that can be used in both commercial and residential construction.

It is estimated that North American demand for soy-based polyols will exceed 700 million pounds within five years, with an equivalent demand internationally. A growing interest in using renewable-resource-based products is the driving force behind this demand, as are cost efficiency and high performance. In fact, the processes used to manufacture SoyOyl consume less energy than those of petroleum-based polyols.

For more information:

The United Soybean Board, composed of 61 U.S. soybean farmers, oversees soybean checkoff-funded investments in foreign market development, human and animal health and nutrition, research and development of new uses, and research in production efficiencies. Contact the USB at For more information about SoyOyl, visit

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