IHS Chemical Week


Bayer Moves Closer to Commercializing Polyols from CO2 (with video)

8:11 AM MST | December 7, 2010 | By ALEX SCOTT

Bayer Material Science (BMS) earlier today said it plans to begin commercial sale of polyols derived from CO2 within the next five years. Speaking in Leverkusen at Bayer’s annual forum on innovation, the company says it considers the production of useful materials, such as polyols, for making polyurethane (PU) foams to be a major commercial opportunity.
The production process is based on the use of a zinc catalyst. BMS would not divulge further the make up of the catalyst, which is the “holy grail” for using CO2 as a raw material, says Christoph Gürtler, head of the catalysis program at BMS.
BMS is working on the project with a number of partners including Aachen University (Aachen, Germany) to develop the process. Bayer also has been working with RWE, which runs a power station in Leverkusen that features a CO2 scrubber unit.
BMS began its ‘Dream Reactions’ project to develop a process for producing polymers from CO2 in 2009. The company started ‘Dream Production’, the manufacturing component of the project earlier this year. Additional projects around the use of CO2 for making useful materials are planned for 2011, Gürtler says. “Wider commercialization will take place in 2020.”
Applications for the technology include use of PU foam for mattresses, as well as for the production of light weight composites in cars. “Something needs to be done. Solutions are available,” Gürtler adds.

The CO2-to-polymers technology was one of several innovations showcased during today’s meeting in Leverkusen. Other projects include the development of PU nanofoams for enhancing the insulation properties above that of standard PU for applications such as insulating fridges. BMS recently has validated the theory that nano-cells within PU foam would markedly enhance the insulation property of PU. Commercialization is a challenge, however. “This is a major, major step,” says Hans Wilhelm Engels, head of innovation for BMS. Engels says he hopes BMS will have a production process for nanofoam involving supercritical CO2 that is commercially viable within the next two or so years.
Another BMS project nearing commercialization is the development of a system for using polycarbonate to make the whole of the back section of a car from one injection molded piece of polycarbonate. The whole section would include light housings, rear window as well as the body section, all made from polycarbonate. Only the electrics would have to be plugged in, says Joachim Simon, head of the Automotive & Transportation segment of BMS’s polycarbonates business.  

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