Based on polyurethane foams and a special textile fabric Bayer MaterialScience has developed a viscoelastic carpet. Walking across this carpet feels like walking over soft moss. “The foam is designed not to be fully compressed underfoot, but only to a certain depth. Since the underfoot area yields without taking large parts of the surrounding area with it, the foam surrounds the foot and gives it a firm grip. This results in a completely new feeling, whether you are walking, standing or indeed sitting on the carpet,” explains Manfred Naujoks, an expert on flexible polyurethane foam at Bayer MaterialScience.
The company considered it very important to find a license partner who would use the opportunities offered by the new floorwear innovation creatively and help it gain a foothold on the market by coming up with some unusual designs. It opted for kymo GmbH in Karlsruhe. “In kymo, we have found a partner that has helped several new carpet materials achieve market success with its fresh, avant-garde design ideas, making it one of Germany’s leading high-end manufacturers of floorwear for both domestic use and prestigious commercial and public buildings,” continues Naujoks. In kymo’s eyes, the main attraction of the cooperation lies in Bayer MaterialScience’s extensive polymer know-how. “With this expertise behind us, we can think outside the box when developing design concepts for viscoelastic carpets and focus our full attention on our real strength, namely developing original and well thought-out designs,” says Denis Türker, Managing Director of kymo. The young company will be unveiling its first viscoelastic carpet under the name PURE MOSS as part of its experimental range at the international furnishing show “imm cologne” in January 2010 in Cologne.
Wide-ranging control over properties
The new carpet concept is based on a four-layered structure. The top layer is an overlay of bielastic knitted fabric with a soft, long-pile texture. Below this is a viscoelastic polyurethane layer and, underneath that, a rebonded foam made from recycled polyurethane material. The bottom layer in contact with the floor is a thin reinforcing fabric that stabilizes the entire structure and protects the less tear-resistant layers above against tensile forces, for example when laying the carpet. The two polyurethane foam layers have very different hardnesses. The viscoelastic polyurethane layer is very soft, initially allowing the foot to sink in. The far harder rebonded foam stops the compression at a specific depth, preventing the entire foam structure from being fully compressed. Thanks to the bielastic fabric, the foam structure only gives way directly under the foot and not in the surrounding area. “The modular principle enables wide-ranging control over the polyurethane layers’ mechanical properties, such as hardness and elasticity modulus, to suit different applications,” explains Naujoks.
Many possible workplace, sports and domestic applications
The new carpets’ viscoelastic properties not only offer a high level of comfort, but also reduce the strain on joints and limbs. This opens up potential applications for sports, the workplace and physiotherapy – in gyms or at supermarket checkouts, for instance – in addition to those in the home and commercial/public buildings. There are also some promising potential applications in rooms frequented by young children or the elderly. If a child or elderly person falls over, for example, the force of the impact is significantly reduced, which lessens the risk of injury. It may also be possible to create mobile modular seating. What’s more, the high polyurethane foam content gives viscoelastic carpets excellent insulating properties that help save heating energy. They also dampen impact and airborne noise.
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