Meet an Inventor Making the World More Energy-Efficient

    Mary Bogdan’s contributions to science improve lives. Get inspired by her advice for aspiring inventors.

    You may not think twice about the spray foam insulation used in the construction of your home, but chemists like Mary Bogdan are fascinated with the science behind the solution that plays a big role in protecting your house, buildings or other structures from the outdoor elements.

    Bogdan is a senior principal scientist located in our global research and development facility in Buffalo, New York. A #futureshaper since 1989, Bogdan holds more than 30 United States patents, and her contributions are present around the world in the form of blowing agent technology.

    Blowing agents expand spray foam so the foam can work as a thermal, air and moisture barrier where it’s applied.

    Historically, blowing agents were made from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that contribute to the Ozone layer. Over time, environmental and government regulations have gradually phased out the use of CFCs, as well as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Hydrofluoroolefins (HFO), licensed as our Solstice® line of low-global-warming-potential solutions, are the latest innovation in fluorine technology.

    Bogdan was recently awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry of the American Chemistry Council, which recognizes individuals who have provided outstanding leadership and advanced the center’s goals and interests of 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.

    We caught up with Bogdan to discuss her career and advice for aspiring inventors:

    Embrace the ‘aha moments’

    Bogdan’s lifelong love of science drove her to study chemistry and biochemistry in college. After completing her undergraduate degree, she conducted cancer research.

    “I liked being a ‘lab geek,’ tearing things apart and being an analytical chemist,” she said.

    Bogdan then worked in production and research and development in a manufacturing facility, which led her to Honeywell (then predecessor company Allied Signal), where she’s held numerous roles in research and development in our global fluorine products blowing agents business.

    For Bogdan, the process of innovation often involves analyzing products coming off of 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 applied in different settings and regions.

    Bogdan’s first patent was the HFC-245fa blowing agent, which served as a non-Ozone-depleting, near-drop-in replacement to HCFC-141b and preceded the development of the low-global-warming-potential Solstice® Liquid Blowing Agent, or HFO-1233zd(E).

    Bogdan said earning patents is about the “aha moment,” and she recalled that with her first patented invention, that moment was the discovery of a more cost-effective blowing agent for customers.

    “We were able to find a way to let people use around 30% less of the blowing agent and still get the same insulation result,” Bogdan said.

    Don’t lose sight of your impact

    From mentors and teammates to product users who’ve shared the impact of her inventions on their lives, Bogdan said people and relationships are among the best parts of her career.

    “One of the things I’ve found most humbling is thinking about the number of people I’ve worked with over the years. When you work as a team, they become like a family,” she said.

    Her advice for early career scientists: Don’t limit yourself.

    Bogdan obtained her Master of Business Administration, which she credits with helping her to understand the connection between the technology and commercial aspects of a business.

    “I was really interested not only in the chemistry and how things worked, but also in business discussions. I studied finance and organizational behavior to better understand how to support and work with the people on our cross-functional team,” Bogdan said.

    She encourages anyone in science – especially women – to be vocal about their professions with others.

    “Talk to your families about what you do. Get involved in your community and share what you do,” Bogdan said. “You don’t know where an idea is going to come from next, or who will hear from you and think: ‘That sounds cool – maybe I’ll try that.’”