Bayer MaterialScience says its research into the potential of using carbon dioxide as a raw material already is paying off in studies showing that C02 can reduce the amount of petroleum used to make plastics.
The German chemical giant's technology uses greenhouse gas as part of its Dream Polymers project to produce a key component for high quality polyurethane foam, and is already moving towards commercial use. The proportion of the petroleum in this chemical is 80 percent.
Christoph Gürtler, project manager at Bayer MaterialScience, said: “We have now succeeded in reducing the petroleum content for making other plastics to just 60 percent.”
Carbon dioxide is used twice in the new process. First, the greenhouse gas is incorporated directly into a new kind of precursor — polyoxymethylene polycarbonate polyol — replacing 20% of the petroleum. Secondly, it is also used indirectly, producing a chemical that is also incorporated into the precursor for a further 20 percent saving in petroleum.
“As a result, the proportion of alternative raw materials is already 40 percent,” Gürtler said.
In addition to this, the number of plastics that can be produced using carbon dioxide is increasing.
“It is now also possible to manufacture thermoplastic polyurethanes, films and casting elastomers in this way,” added Gürtler. Such plastics are used in all kinds of applications, including automotive interiors, cable sheathing and sporting goods such as ski boots.
Bayer researchers have already proved in laboratory tests that the manufacturing process works in principle.
“Initial application tests have been positive,” he said, “but there is some way to go before the process is commercially viable.”
Dream Polymers is being supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. External institutions in Germany such as the CAT Catalytic Center, the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology are also involved.