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Tuesday - April 14, 2015

Bayer MaterialScience driving forward the use of carbon dioxide

CO2 – a convincing new building block for polyurethanes

Innovative polyols feature especially high quality and sustainability
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As a convincing alternative source of carbon, CO2 enables not only the polyurethane component polyol to be produced in a high quality, but also – and above all – offers significant ecological advantages. Bayer MaterialScience therefore continues to drive forward its activities pertaining to the use of CO2. A first polyol for the manufacture of polyurethane flexible foam is scheduled for market launch in 2016.

Maastricht, April 14, 2015 – Carbon dioxide is a convincing alternative source of carbon for polyurethane production. It enables not only the polyurethane component polyol to be produced in a high quality, but also – and above all – offers significant ecological advantages, as Bayer MaterialScience highlighted at the UTECH 2015 tradeshow in Maastricht. With this method, the greenhouse gas potential and consumption of fossil resources are substantially lower than with the exclusive use of conventional petrochemical building blocks. Bayer therefore continues to drive forward its activities pertaining to the use of CO2. The first products are scheduled for market launch in 2016.

Bayer MaterialScience initially intends to use carbon dioxide to produce an innovative polyol for the manufacture of polyurethane flexible foam. In this connection, a production line is being currently built in Dormagen that is scheduled to commence operation in 2016.

14 percent less crude oil
The new polyether carbonate polyols help above all to conserve natural resources in production, as this saves substantial volumes of conventional petrochemical materials – in this case propylene oxide. “At a 20 percent CO2 share, for example, the consumption of crude oil equivalents per kilogram of polyol would be 14 percent lower than with conventional production,” says Dr. Christoph Gürtler, who works in CO2 research at Bayer MaterialScience.

This process also considerably improves the carbon footprint. “We don't just incorporate CO2 – at the same time, we reduce the CO2 emissions that naturally occur during polyol production,” explains Gürtler. This is achieved through the lower share of propylene oxide and the corresponding reduction in the CO2 load that occurs in the preliminary stages of the energy-intensive petrochemical synthesis of this raw material.

Lower emissions
“We have found out that by integrating carbon dioxide into polyols, we save several times more CO2 than is emitted during the manufacture of polyols based completely on propylene oxide,” remarks Gürtler. “The ratio is nearly one to three, which underscores the ecological benefit.” These figures are based on an extensive study (life cycle assessment – LCA) by RWTH Aachen University that was presented at UTECH by a representative from the university.

The properties of the innovative CO2-based polyols are also positive. Furthermore, the alternative raw materials extensively tested by Bayer MaterialScience can be processed with conventional machines. “Our CO2-based polyols are thus perfectly suited to produce polyurethanes initially for mattresses or upholstered furniture,” says Dr. Lutz Brassat from Applications Development at Bayer MaterialScience.

Yet the company isn't just targeting conventional flexible foams. It is also developing a special CO2 polyol for viscoelastic foam. “The initial results are very promising,” says Brassat.

Expanding the product range
Bayer MaterialScience is planning to use carbon dioxide for other product groups too. In research and development projects, the company is working to offer CO2 polyols for thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) and cast elastomers, for example.

Furthermore, the experts are endeavoring to further reduce the share of fossil raw materials through direct and indirect use of CO2. “And we have now succeeded in developing a polyol that is only 60 percent based on crude oil derivatives,” says Gürtler. This precursor – a polyoxymethylene polycarbonate polyol – boasts a particularly good carbon footprint. Potential applications include car interior fittings and sporting goods.

About Bayer MaterialScience:
With 2014 sales of EUR 11.7 billion, Bayer MaterialScience is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and the sports and leisure industries. At the end of 2014 Bayer MaterialScience had 30 production sites and employed approximately 14,200 people around the globe. Bayer MaterialScience is a Bayer Group company.

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