Urea hard segment morphology in flexible polyurethane foam

Raymond Neff, Adeyinka Adedeji, Christopher W. Macosko, Anthony J. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


A series of flexible polyurethane slabstock foam samples were prepared with varying water content and studied using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), video-enhanced optical microscopy (VEM), and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). A new TEM sample preparation technique was developed in which the foam is impregnated with water, frozen, and microtomed, and the polyether soft segment is selectively degraded in the electron beam. Structures of two size scales were detected. A texture with grains ("urea aggregates") 50-200 nm in size was imaged using both VEM and low-magnification TEM for foams with formulations containing more than 2 pphp water. For the first time, images of urea hard segment microdomains in polyurethane foam (approximately 5 nm in size) were obtained using high-magnification TEM. A microdomain spacing of approximately 6-8 nm was estimated from the SAXS scattering profiles. Glycerol was added to one of the formulations in order to modify the urea microphase separation and to give insight into morphology development in molded polyurethane foam systems. No structure was observed in low-magnification TEM images of the glycerol-modified foam, although smaller structures (hard segments) were detected at high magnification and by SAXS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-581
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Polymer Science, Part B: Polymer Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1998


  • Block-segmented copolymers
  • Microphase separation
  • Optical microscopy
  • Polyether polyol
  • Polyurethane foam
  • Small-angle X-ray scattering
  • Transmission electron microscopy


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