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What Is Polyurethane?

Polyurethane is a type of synthetic material that grew in popularity during World War II. It is known for being quite durable yet flexible, and is used to make a number of products. Depending on its use, it can appear in many forms. For example, polyurethane can be used to make fiberglass (often used for windows or as a component in appliances) and is quite hard. It is also used to make upholstery foam, which is soft and squishy. It can also be made into liquid form, such as a sheer varnish or a thick glue. Polyurethane has also been used to make machines like airplane wings, or even baby toys.

Polyurethane is made from a chemical process that combines two monomers, diisocyanate and a diol. The resulting material is very resilient and malleable, and can be stretched or crushed without breaking down. The type of monomers used leads to differences in texture or even form, from liquids to solids.

The more elastic types of polyurethanes are called elastomers. They are more solid and don’t compress as easily as other kinds, and tend to maintain their original shape. Examples include foam insulators or cushion foams. Others are more like thermoplastics, which are valued for their durability and waterproof surfaces. Polyurethane adhesives, on the other hand, are often used to protect other materials from corrosion and fading, due to the characteristic of resisting heat and moisture. These are typically used in coolers, or are applied on walls and roofs, or even vehicles.

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