October 16, 2006

Ford announces breakthrough in soy-based seat cushion technology

Dearborn, Michigan – Scientists at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center have announced a major breakthrough with soy-based polyurethane foams, the primary component of vehicle seat cushions, seat backs, armrests and head restraints.

While many automakers are experimenting with a 5 per cent soy-based polyol, an ingredient used to create the foam, Ford researchers say they have formulated the chemistry to replace 40 per cent of the standard petroleum-based polyol with a soy-based material that does not compromise the foam’s durability, stiffness or performance.

Initial projections estimate that using soy-based foam at high volumes could represent an annual material cost savings of as much as US$26 million. In addition, soy polyols have one-quarter the level of total environmental impact of petroleum-based ingredients.

According to Ford, most auto manufacturers today use 100 per cent petroleum-based polyol foam, with an average of 13.6 kg of foam per vehicle. Ford has applied for two patents, one for high-content soy foam formulations and the other for a new low-odour process to synthesize polyols. Without the new process, the 40 per cent soy-based foam has an odd vegetable-oil odour.

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