Former Dow research chemist Otis Ray McIntire, inventor of STYROFOAM™ brand extruded polystyrene insulation, is among 18 new members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame who were announced and honored at a ceremony on Capitol Hill. Formal induction ceremonies for the new members will take place in May at the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.
“McIntire’s invention of STYROFOAM™ brand extruded polystyrene triggered the development of many indispensable insulation products used around the world. We are very pleased that his achievement has been recognized by the National Inventors Hall of Fame,” said Torsten Kraef, Dow Building Solutions president and general manager. “McIntire joins more than 300 other famous inventors in the Hall of Fame, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and the founder of our company, Herbert Henry Dow.”
McIntire’s recognition is timely since one of the key requirements for election to the Hall of Fame is that the nominee’s invention must have contributed to the welfare of society and promoted the progress of science and the useful arts. Installed in millions of residential and commercial applications around the world, STYROFOAM™ brand insulation products are estimated to reduce energy costs by more than $10 billion annually. One square foot of properly installed STYROFOAM™ brand insulation can save up to one ton of CO2 emissions over the life of a home.
Nearly 65 years after STYROFOAM™ brand insulation was first patented, Dow continues to leverage the extensive research and development infrastructure of The Dow Chemical Company to build upon the flagship brand and expand its portfolio of innovative solutions. Dow Building Solutions is a leader in the building industry and demonstrates its ongoing commitment by combining technical know-how and a deep understanding of market needs to help customers solve their toughest construction challenges. STYROFOAM™ brand products also play an integral role in helping Dow achieve its 2015 Sustainability Goals related to energy efficiency and reducing global carbon emissions.
STYROFOAM™: From Discovery to a Leading Brand
Born in 1918, McIntire graduated from the University of Kansas in 1940 with a B.S. degree in engineering. He then went to work as a research engineer for The Dow Chemical Company, and during World War II, when rubber was in short supply, McIntire’s work focused on developing a rubber-like substance that could be used as a flexible insulator. In an experiment in which he combined styrene with isobutylene, he created a unique material that was solid yet flexible due to the tiny bubbles formed by isobutylene within the styrene.
Patented in 1944 as STYROFOAM™, this new material was lightweight but also durable, and exhibited outstanding thermal and moisture-resistant properties. Today, STYROFOAM™ is one of the leading brands of extruded polystyrene insulation in the world. STYROFOAM™ brand insulation products are used in a variety of insulation applications from rooftops to basement walls. Other applications range from marine buoyancy billets to floral, art and craft products. STYROFOAM™ brand insulation is easily recognized by its unique BLUE™ hue, although floral and craft applications are green or white.
The STYROFOAM™ brand name is frequently misused by the general public as a generic term for disposable foam products such as coffee cups, coolers and packaging materials. These materials, however, are made from expanded polystyrene and do not have the insulation value, compressive strength or moisture resistant properties of STYROFOAM™ brand extruded polystyrene insulation.