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Non-toxic foams for sustainable aircraft seating cushions

An EU-funded project developed an alternative to currently used flexible foams for seat cushions. The product meets the strict fire resistance standards present in the aeronautics industry.

Industrial Technologies

Flexible polyurethane (PU) foams are widely used in the automotive and aeronautics industries for applications such as fillers in seats or head restraints. However, the low-density and open-cell foam makes this material highly flammable. Although conventional halogenated flame retardants can reduce PU flammability, they are harmful to health and the environment. With this in mind, the EU-funded FIBIOSEAT (Fire resistant biobased polyurethane foam for aircraft seating cushions) project set out to develop seat cushions using petroleum-based and natural oil polyols and non-halogenated flame retardants that provide comfort and durability. Comfort, support and durability were assessed, and mechanical properties and fire behaviour were tested. Scientists also studied the PU foaming machine and selected melamine for use as a fire retardant. Several foaming moulds for seat cushions were designed. Based on this, project partners manufactured a green PU seat cover solution with computer-aided optimisation software. It contains 30 % bio-based polyol that fulfils all aircraft requirements for fire resistance, comfort and durability. Two versions were manufactured and made available with and without expandable graphite, a fire retardant additive for the foam. It is easily recyclable through mechanical or chemical processes. Successful production of innovative and green foams from petroleum and renewable resources and treating them with increased concentrations of non-toxic fire retardants should provide the PU foam processing sector in Europe with a clear competitive edge.

Keywords

Foams, aircraft, seating cushions, polyurethane, halogenated, flame retardants, polyols

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