Polyurethane is a leading member of the wide-ranging and highly diverse family of polymers or plastics.

As simple explanation, manufacturers make polyurethane (PU) by reacting two chemicals: polyols and diisocyanates. In addition, a series of additives and process aids are required to produce high performance PU products and to meet diverse market requirements, depending on the application it will be used for.

Polyurethane can be both a thermoplastic (TPU) and a thermoset (TSU). The difference between them is the way they respond to heat. Thermoplastic polyurethane is a type of polyurethane that can be repeatedly melted and reshaped by heating it above a certain temperature, then cooled and solidified again. This process can be repeated multiple times without significantly altering the properties of the material. Thermosetting polyurethane, on the other hand, is a type of polyurethane that cannot be remelted and reshaped after it is initially formed. This is because the chemical bonds between the molecules in the material are very strong and are not broken down by heating. Once cured and cooled, the material maintains its shape and properties.

There are several different types of polyurethane, including notably:

    • Flexible polyurethane foam is overwhelmingly used as cushioning in furniture, car seats, and mattresses. As polyurethane foam is made and formed in one single process step, it offers a broad variety of car seat designs to automotive car producers. It is lightweight, provides good support and comfort for the passengers and is durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of regular use.
    • Rigid polyurethane foam is mainly used as in buildings and various appliances for thermal insulation purposes. In cars, rigid PU foam can be used to insulate the engine compartment, the trunk, and other areas of the car where heat retention is important. It also helps to reduce the amount of noise inside the car. Rigid PU foam is also used in car body parts such as the door panels, instrument panels, flooring and dashboard, where it can be shaped to fit the contours of the car and provide support and insulation.
    • Polyurethane elastomers have both rubber-like and plastic-like properties. They are often used in seals, gaskets, and other applications that require a combination of flexibility and strength.
    • Polyurethane coatings and adhesives are used as coatings on surfaces, or as adhesives to bond two surfaces together. They are often used for things like flooring, automotive parts and other industrial products that need protection and durability.


Polyurethanes are used for many different purposes in a car because:

    • They are lightweight: Over time the density of polyurethanes has been reduced by 30 to 40% without significantly compromising mechanical properties. For example, polyurethane foam used in headliners and seating has one of the lowest densities of any plastic used in a car.
    • They help reducing noise for passengers: The excellent sound-absorbing and vibration dampening qualities of polyurethanes contribute to high comfort and safety levels.
    • They are durable: Polyurethane is not prone to corrosion; throughout their life they ensure stability even under severe conditions.
    • They are versatile and offer freedom of design: Car seats have widely evolved over time together with knowledge of ergonomics. And they keep doing so, because polyurethanes offer a wide choice of performance and processing characteristics, allowing applications to be tailored for advanced shapes and forms using the same basic chemicals.
    • They can be recycled through a range of approved technologies and offer the potential for monomaterial solutions, which facilitate dismantling and recycling.