Cargill opens polyol center

By Jerry W. Kram
Cargill Inc. has opened a center to develop biobased chemical products. The BiOH Polyols Research and Development Center in Plymouth, Minn., will host researchers in a 19,000-square-foot facility that will include a pilot production area. At the center, the company will be researching the production and use of biobased urethane products that will be marketed under the BiOH trademark. The initial products will be flexible foams for the automobile, bedding and furniture markets.

Polyols are a family of alcohols with multiple hydroxyl groups that includes glycols, glycerol and sugar-based alcohols. Cargill's BiOH polyols are derived from vegetable oils such as soybean oil. Future applications of the technology may allow Cargill to offer replacements for other petroleum-based urethane products such as rigid foams and rubber-like compounds called elastomers. Ricardo De Genova, the technical manager for the BiOH brand, will manage the new lab. "You can do things with this chemistry that you can't do with petroleum," he said. "The potential is unlimited."

Cargill's BiOH products have received widespread recognition, including the 2007 President's Green Chemistry Challenge Award given by the U.S. EPA and the American Chemical Society.