Lear Corporation has developed SoyFoam, a soybean oil-based flexible foam material for automotive interior applications.

Claimed advantages include a lower environmental impact to produce as the soy-based foam material is up to 24% renewable as opposed to traditional non-renewable petroleum-based foam, it reduces dependency on volatile energy markets and it offers the potential for reducing foam costs as use in automotive applications reaches critical mass.

Ford was the first automotive manufacturer to express an interest in soy foam for automotive applications and the first to demonstrate that soy-based polyols could be used at high levels (about 40%) to make foams capable of meeting or exceeding automotive requirements.

In 2004, a partnership was formed between Ford and Lear for the purpose of commercialising SoyFoam applications, with initial work concentrated on the moulding of headrest and armrest components.

Today, Lear and Ford claim to lead the industry with market ready applications for this renewable resource.

Lear also is collaborating with the United Soybean Board - New Uses Committee (a group of 64 farmers/agricultural industry leaders), Urethane Soy Systems Company, Bayer Corporation and Renosol Corporation on SoyFoam development.

"Our research and testing has proven that SoyFoam solutions will withstand a mass production environment and meet or exceed performance requirements," said Ash Galbreath, director of Lear's environmental comfort engineering.

"As a result, the recent breakthroughs in SoyFoam technology are of great interest to our worldwide customers," he added.