Cork Liquefaction for Polyurethane Foam Production

Bruno Esteves, Yuliya Dulyanska, Catarina Costa, José Vicente Ferreira, Idalina Domingos, Helena Pereira, Luis Teixeira de Lemos, Luísa Valente Cruz-Lopes


Cork is one of the most important forest products in Portugal. The cork processing industry is highly resource-efficient, and the only residue is cork powder, which is too small for agglomerate production. This work studied the usage of cork powder for the production of added-value products via polyol liquefaction. Liquefactions were performed in a reactor using a mixture of polyethylene glycol (PEG 400) and glycerol as solvents, which were catalyzed by the addition of sulphuric acid. Several cork-to-solvent ratios, reaction temperatures, and reaction times were tested. Polyurethane foams were prepared by combining polyol mixtures with a catalyst, surfactant, blowing agent, and polymeric isocyanate. Mechanical tests of the produced foams were conducted, and compressive modulus of elasticity and compressive stress at 10% deformation were determined. The results show that the best conditions for obtaining high liquefaction yields are as follows: 160 °C for 1 h; glycerol-to-PEG 400 ratio of 1:9; cork-to-solvent ratio of 1:6; and 3% H2SO4 catalyst addition. The Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectra indicated that the lignocellulosic fractions of the cork were more selectively dissolved during acidified polyol liquefaction than the suberin. With liquefied cork powder using these optimized conditions, it is possible to produce polyurethane foams with desired properties.


Cork; Liquefaction; Polyurethane foams; Valorization

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