Final Report: Isocyanate-Free Polyurethane Coating

EPA Contract Number: EPD17025
Title: Isocyanate-Free Polyurethane Coating
Investigators: Bolskar, Robert D
Small Business: TDA Research Inc.
EPA Contact: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: II
Project Period: March 1, 2017 through February 28, 2019
Project Amount: $300,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2016) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Water


In this project, TDA Research, Inc. (TDA) is developing new non-isocyanate two-part polyurethane chemistry. Polyurethane paints and coatings are widely used as topcoats, especially for their physical durability, resistance to abrasion and corrosion, and adhesion. Standard polyurethanes are made by reacting two components, one of which has toxic isocyanate groups.Isocyanates are especially hazardous to workers that spray-apply polyurethane paints. Researchers have developed less hazardous ways to make polyurethane, but they have poor performance, cure too slowly or are too expensive.Since polyurethane coatings are one of the fastest-growing sectors of the paint and coatings industry, access to non-isocyanate polyurethanes made by simple and adaptable processes would have commercial value and improve chemical health and safety when polyurethanes are manufactured and used. Our technology is designed to eliminate the isocyanate toxicity and health and safety problems of current polyurethanes while maintaining their durability, resistance to abrasion and corrosion, and adhesive properties, which are the properties that make them so useful.Our objective is to make coatings in new formulations whose chemical properties have the relevant chemical and performance characteristics used in coatings, paints and consumer products, while being made from different, non-toxic precursors.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

During the project, we conducted research and development on the synthesis of the precursor chemicals to polyurethanes and on non-isocyanate polyurethane-forming reaction chemistry, and then characterized the resulting precursor and polyurethane products.The precursor derivatives were made by optimized procedures, and used together with other ingredients as two-part monomer feedstocks in solution-phase and melt-phase reactions to form new polyurethanes.The chemical makeup of the monomers was selected to be adaptable enough to both directly replace current polyurethane with a similar final chemical makeup, and separately to also be changeable for when new polyurethanes with varied properties such as hydrophilicity or hydrophobicity are desired.This gives the flexibility needed to adapt our processes to different target markets.

We also conducted analyses of the production processes, their environmental impacts, and their estimated costs.To support commercialization of our technology, with advice from industry partners and other sources, we expanded beyond an initial target of aerospace coatings to include polyurethane targets with potentially faster translation from the laboratory to the market, including water-compatible formulations and formulations targeted more towards home consumer applications.With these suggestions, we modified our synthetic targets to include relevant building blocks in our precursors.


The new processes developing in this project improve over prior processes by no longer using unhealthy, toxic isocyanate ingredients that usually are in polyurethane paints.This will make it safer to manufacture the ingredients and will especially make it safer for people who use the paints.For example, our processes can replace the commonly used ingredient toluene diisocyanate (TDI) with a different, non-isocyanate compound. We have demonstrated that our process can be used to make water-tolerant polyurethane formulations, and that our two-part ingredients are stable towards water, which is also an improvement over water-reactive isocyanate-based ingredients.We have shown that the polymerization reactions with our ingredients can be conducted in both solution and melt phases, which potentially broadens the range of applications our materials can be used in, including for example the spray application of two-part solutions and melt fabrication. The physical and analytical characterization data that we obtained for our materials supported the conclusions that our new targeted formulations were successfully generated. TDA's chemistry can potentially provide an isocyanate-free drop-in replacement for many existing two-part polyurethanes.

Commercialization: Polyurethanes represent a very large potential market for our new technology, and there are many applications in paints and coatings where replacing current isocyanate-based two-part polyurethanes with our non-isocyanate formulations could have commercial impact. For example, in the U.S., annual polyurethane production for foams, insulation and coatings is about 7 billion pounds.One of our target market segments, two-part aerospace polyurethane coatings is comprised of $316 for military aerospace coatings and $299 million for commercial aerospace coatings (estimates for 2015). The world market including automotive refinish coatings and industrial coatings exceeds several billion dollars.Eliminating unhealthy, toxic ingredients that usually are in polyurethane paints and replacing them with our two-part formulations that are water-compatible will be also attractive for use in home consumer markets, including interior protective coating and paint applications for protecting wood surfaces and floors.To protect new intellectual property related to the non-isocyanate reaction platform and the specific chemical processes for making precursor derivatives, provisional patent applications are being filed.Commercialization of the technology will be achieved in collaboration with industry partners to manufacture ingredients and develop commercial and military applications with polyurethanes.

SBIR Phase I:

Isocyanate-Free Polyurethane Coatings  | Final Report