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Plastics from greenhouse gas are no dream, says Bayer

Plastics from greenhouse gas are no dream, says Bayer
Bayer is building a pilot plant for the kilogram-scale production of polyether polycarbonate polyols (PPPs) from the major greenhouse gas CO2 and propylene oxide. PPPs can be further processed to produce polyurethane.

Construction of the plant at Bayer’s headquarters facility at the Chempark, Leverkusen, Germany got underway in May 2010.

At a “Perspective on Innovation 2010” event at Leverkusen on 7 December, a Bayer MaterialScience (BMS) spokesman said: “Scientists around the world have been searching for decades for ways in which to expoloit the waste product carbon dioxide (CO2).

“One major obstacle is that CO2 molecules are very stable and it is difficult to get them to react chemically with other substances. It would be possible to overcome this inertia by using large amounts of energy, but this would make the processes very costly and would result in the release of yet more greenhouse gases.

“Special catalysts can, however, reduce the activation energy and make the processes more cost-effective. The ‘Dream Reactions’ research project, which has been sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) since March 2009, is investigating this topic.”

The CO2 for the pilot plant (the ‘Dream Production’ phase) is to be provided by RWE Power’s lignite power plant in Niederaussem, North Rhine-Westphalia. BMS’s academic partner for Dream Production is RWTH Aachen University.

The spokesman continued: “The ‘dream’ branding indicates that this project is all about realising the chemist’s long-held hope of creating valuable products under mild conditions from components that are already available in massive quantities and are therefore inexpensive.

“Rigid polyurethane foam, for example, can be used as an efficient insulating material in refrigerators and in buildings to save around 70 times more energy over its lifetime than is needed to produce it.”

The zinc-based catalysts used to promote the conversion of CO2 to PPPs have a considerable cost advantage over precious metal catalysts (e.g. those based on platinum, palladium, rhodium or gold).