You may not think twice about the spray foam insulation used in the construction of your home, but chemists like Mary Bogdan are intrigued by the science behind the solution, which plays a huge role in protecting your home, buildings, or other structure from the elements outdoors plays outdoors.
Bogdan is a Senior Principal Scientist at our global research and development facility in Buffalo, New York. Bogdan has been a #futureshaper since 1989 and holds more than 30 US patents and her contributions are present in the form of propellant technology around the world.
Blowing agents expand spray foam, allowing the foam to act as a heat, air, and moisture barrier where it is applied.
Historically, propellants were made from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which contribute to the ozone layer. Over time, environmental and governmental regulations have phased out the use of CFCs as well as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Hydrofluoroolefins (HFO), licensed as our Solstice® line of low-GWP solutions, are the latest innovation in fluorine technology.
Bogdan was recently recognized by the American Chemistry Council’s Center for the Polyurethanes Industry with the Distinguished Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and advanced the Center’s goals and interests for the industry. Bogdan has published numerous technical articles on the development and use of fluorocarbons and has worked with the Center’s committees to develop technical product stewardship guidance and educational and training materials on spray foam.
Bogdan’s lifelong love of science drove her to study chemistry and biochemistry in college. After completing her bachelor’s degree, she conducted cancer research.
“I liked being a ‘lab freak,’ breaking things up and being an analytical chemist,” she said.
Bogdan then worked in manufacturing and R&D at a manufacturing facility which led her to Honeywell (then predecessor company Allied Signal) where she held numerous R&D positions in our global fluorochemical propellant business.
For Bogdan, the innovation process often involves analyzing products coming off a production line, conducting tests to understand how to use less product for better environmental and customer outcomes, and visiting sites around the world to see how products are used in different environments and regions.
Bogdan’s first patent was HFC-245fa propellant, which served as a non-ozone-depleting, near-workable replacement for HCFC-141b and preceded the development of the low-GWP liquid propellant Solstice®. or HFO-1233zd(E).
Bogdan said acquiring patents is about the “aha moment,” and she recalled that moment in her first patented invention was the discovery of a cheaper propellant for customers.
“We were able to find a way to have people use about 30% less blowing agent and still get the same insulation result,” said Bogdan.
From mentors and teammates to product users who have shared the impact their inventions have had on their lives, Bogdan said that people and relationships are among the best parts of her career.
“One of the things that humbles me the most is thinking about the number of people I’ve worked with over the years. When you work as a team, they become like family,” she said.
Her advice for young academics: Don’t limit yourself.
Bogdan earned her Masters of Business Administration, which she credits with helping her understand the connection between the technological and commercial aspects of a business.
“I was not only very interested in chemistry and how things work, but also in business discussions. I studied finance and organizational behavior to better understand how to support and work with the people in our cross-functional team,” said Bogdan.
She encourages everyone in science – especially women – to talk to others about their profession.
“Talk to your families about what you are doing. Get involved in your community and share what you do,” Bogdan said. “You don’t know where an idea will come from next or who will hear from you and be like, ‘That sounds cool — maybe I’ll try that.'”