ASTM D6866 Measures Renewable Content of Foams

Consumer demand for green products is high, and home furnishing businesses have joined the bandwagon. There are now upholstered seat cushions and bedding foam that are no longer 100% made of petroleum products. Foams of some furniture and mattresses available in the market nowadays have components made from soybeans.

Manufacturers mix renewable, soy-based polyols with non-renewable petroleum polyols to make foams. The two main ingredients in making polyurethane foams are polyols and isocyanates; both are traditionally petroleum-based. Polyols from soybean oil are now available, hence foams can have a renewable component. The percentage of renewable versus non-renewable depends on the foam type and the manufacturing process. Manufacturers aim to replace a significant portion of petroleum-based chemicals with a renewable component while maintaining foam quality.

To provide proof of their biobased claims, manufacturers need to determine the exact portion of renewable content present in their foam products. Companies like Cargill, the maker of renewable BiOH® polyols, submit as little as 1 gram of their product for ASTM D6866-06 testing. This test method is an industrial application of radiocarbon dating, and it can measure the renewable content of any solid or liquid biobased product.


Radiocarbon dating accurately determines the renewable portion of any product by measuring the material’s carbon 14 content. Carbon 14 present in a sample is directly proportional to the percentage of renewable content. This is because any material from a renewable source still has carbon 14 while those that are fossil fuel-based no longer have this carbon isotope.

Through ASTM D6866-06, foam manufacturers can accurately determine the renewable content of their products.

Source: Cargill BiOH

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 and is filed under Biobased Products .