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Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)

Yangzhou Chengsen Plastics Co.,Ltd | Updated: May 25, 2018

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is any of a class of polyurethane plastics with many properties, including elasticitytransparency, and resistance to oil, grease and abrasion. Technically, they are thermoplastic elastomers consisting of linear segmented block copolymers composed of hard and soft segments.



TPU has many applications including automotive instrument panels, caster wheels, power tools, sporting goods, medical devices, drive belts, footwear, inflatable rafts, and a variety of extruded film, sheet and profile applications.TPU is also a popular material found in outer cases of mobile electronic devices, such as mobile phones. It is also used to make keyboard protectors for laptops.

TPU is well known for its applications in performance films, wire and cable jacketing, hose and tube, in adhesive and textile coating applications and as an impact modifier of other polymers. TPU pellets are used as Adidas' most recent cushioning technology, known as Boost. Several thousands of TPU pellets are bound together to create a comfortable sole for the shoe.

Overview of TPU on the market

Properties of commercially available TPU include:

  • high abrasion resistance

  • low-temperature performance

  • high shear strength

  • high elasticity

  • transparency

  • oil and grease resistance

The currently available TPUs can be divided mainly in two groups, based on soft segment chemistry:

  1. polyester-based TPUs (mainly derived from adipic acid esters)

  2. polyether-based TPUs (mainly based on tetrahydrofuran (THF) ethers). The differences between these two groups are outlined in the table below:

Table of properties

Table 1: Main differences between polyester- and polyether-based TPU.

(A = excellent; B = good; C = acceptable; D = poor; F = very poor)

PropertyPolyester-based TPUPolyether-based TPU
Abrasion resistanceAC
Mechanical propertiesAB
Low temperature flexibilityCA
Heat agingBD
Hydrolysis resistanceFA
Chemical resistanceAD
Microbial resistanceFB
Adhesion strengthBD

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