19 July 2024, 05:50
By Furniture News Sept 06, 2021

How Dow's ComfortScience division maps the future of sleep

How can science increase human comfort? It’s a question that drives Dow Polyurethanes’ ComfortScience division to ever-greater lengths in its search for innovative, intuitive and sustainable solutions for the furniture industry, explains strategic marketing manager, Ricco Borella …

Can you outline Dow’s work in the furniture sector?

At Dow, we have a long history of applying science to create materials that deliver the most comfortable experience possible. Our solutions for the furniture sector help people to achieve their ideal levels of comfort, and we do that by combining our knowledge of material science with an understanding of how human beings think, feel, sense, and behave. We call this ComfortScience. 

In the past three years we have been collaborating with multiple companies across value chains to understand and improve comfort products like chairs, sofas, and sleep products. To do just that, we have expanded our laboratories with mattress and pillow prototyping capabilities. Here, we can adopt an integrated approach, from developing new foams, designing mattresses and pillows, to producing them at scale, and evaluating their performance – all in one location, all integrated.

How do your customers utilise your solutions?

We believe in the value of partnerships, and with this approach we aim to bring to market solutions that have the potential to change the world of comfort as we know it. For example, through our RENUVA Mattress Recycling Program, we are recycling polyurethane foam from end-of-life mattresses and turning it into RENUVA polyols for use in new mattresses and other applications (see May 2021’s Furniture News for details). 

One of our partners making this possible is The Vita Group, one of Europe’s leading flexible polyurethane foam solutions providers, who is now using RENUVA recycled polyols to produce new, high-quality foams. 

What are your key products? 

To answer the needs of the furniture market, we offer a broad range of raw materials that enable a diversity of foam types. From technologies that meet regulatory requirements in terms of emissions, odour, and durability – all while maximising operational efficiency – to sustainable and circular solutions. 

We incorporate these properties into our products: ComfortScience TRUE Relieve, a pillow that accommodates the natural curves of the head and neck to lower pressure at pain points; ComfortScience COOL Breathable, a pillow made of a special material that increases the flow of air and lets heat and humidity escape; and our most recent, ComfortScience CLEAN Washable, a pillow that can be washed at 60° C, can withstand spinning and dries quickly, offering peace of mind to allergy sufferers, busy parents and, indeed, to all of us in pandemic times.  

How do your latest developments address growing consumer interest in sleep and wellness?

We spend one third of our lives sleeping. Like nutritious food and regular exercise, it’s a vital factor in creating a balanced lifestyle, and the key to achieving overall mental and physical wellbeing – but it’s often overlooked in discussions about wellness. 

In the past, sleep was a black box that could not be quantified or easily measured. The growth in sleep science has created smart technologies and devices that help us track, visualise and quantify when and how we are resting, so that we can do so more comfortably. 

Increased insights into how we experience sleep and comfort have also enabled improvements in sleep aids and the materials we sleep on. At Dow, we’ve been on a journey to improve the way we experience comfort, by combining our material science expertise with a keen understanding of how humans think, feel and sense comfort. We use science to innovate solutions that respond to our individual notions of comfort, and put it front and centre in the discourse about our wellbeing.

How can science deliver better sleep?

As with all scientific work, we observe and test. This is how we’ve identified three dimensions of comfort, each of them created by several parameters working together (see diagram). By understanding what they are and how to quantify them, we’re better equipped to deliver comfort – and comfort leads to better sleep. 

These three dimensions of comfort start with Ergonomics, the best-understood dimension, which is all about the fundamental body support a mattress and pillow needs to deliver hour after hour, night after night, for years. Next is Microclimate, which deals with how temperature and humidity move within materials, and how we can ensure you are just right during the night – not too cold and not too warm – to reduce discomfort and, in the worst case, waking when you don’t want to.

The least-understood dimension – but also the most powerful – is Sensation. Within Sensation, we look at parameters like touch, feel, haptics and initial micro-compression, to understand how materials and constructions are perceived and experienced in use and in the showroom.

How are your solutions applicable to the UK marketplace in particular?

Our Dow comfort solutions are applicable to markets that value collaborative research and development, regulatory compliance, operational efficiency, and the sustainability and circularity of materials. Based on our partnerships with UK players, we can conclude there is a strong interest in the above. 

Our UK-based partner, The Vita Group, already made a commitment to a faster industry realisation of a circular economy for flexible polyurethane foams, and we are beyond excited to make this a reality, together. 

Why do Dow’s solutions matter to the wider industry at this point in time?

Thanks to the nature of the Dow products, and alongside our value chain partners, we are enablers of the bedding and furniture industry. This is a privilege and a responsibility, as we pledge to continuously push the boundaries of science to come up with solutions that are more comfortable, more efficient, and friendlier to our environment. 

Find out more about Dow’s developments in the area of sleep and comfort at comfortscience.com.

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