Polyurethane (PUR and PU) is a polymer composed of a chain of organic units joined by carbamate (urethane) links. While most polyurethanes are thermosetting polymers that do not melt when heated, thermoplastic polyurethanes are also available.
Polyurethane polymers are traditionally and most commonly formed by reacting a di- or polyisocyanate with a polyol. Both the isocyanates and polyols used to make polyurethanes contain on average two or more functional groups per molecule.
Some noteworthy recent efforts have been dedicated to minimizing the use of isocyanates to synthesize polyurethanes, because the isocyanates raise severe toxicity issues. Non-isocyanate based polyurethanes (NIPUs) have recently been developed as a new class of polyurethane polymers to mitigate health and environmental concerns.
Polyurethane products often are simply called “urethanes”, but should not be confused with ethyl carbamate, which is also called urethane. Polyurethanes neither contain nor are produced from ethyl carbamate.
Polyurethanes are used in the manufacture of flexible, high-resilience foam seating; rigid foam insulation panels; microcellular foam seals and gaskets; durable elastomeric wheels and tires (such as roller coaster and escalator wheels); automotive suspension bushings; electrical potting compounds; high performance adhesives; surface coatings and surface sealants; synthetic fibers (e.g., Spandex); carpet underlay; hard-plastic parts (e.g., for electronic instruments); hoses and skateboard wheels