After several years of R&D, Covestro has succeeded, together with its scientific partners, in developing a process that uses CO2 from industrial waste gases to make polyol, one of the two basic components of polyurethane. Until now, the polyol in polyurethane foam used in mattresses, for example, was derived from fossil fuels.
Using CO2 for greener plastics
The process, called Cardyon, uses a catalyst, a white powder, which reacts the energy-poor CO2 with energy-rich epoxies. The catalyst fuses the two together, partially replacing the petroleum-based components normally contained in this type of material.
Conserving resources and achieving a more circular economy
Capturing and converting CO2 into polyol in this way not only reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - worldwide almost 34 billion tonnes were released into the atmosphere in 2020 alone - but also conserves valuable resources such as fossil fuels. A study by the University of Aachen has shown that one kilo of Cardyon polyol, composed of 20% CO2, results in an 18% reduction in emissions compared to a 100% petrochemical-based polyol.
An alternative raw material already present in several markets
Launched more than 10 years ago, the project has resulted in the establishment of a test plant in Dormagen, Germany, where 5,000 tonnes per year of this sustainable Cardyon are produced using the waste CO2 from a nearby ammonia production plant. It is marketed under the brand name of the same name.
Initially used in mattresses and upholstered furniture such as sofas and armchairs, the foam can now be found in car interiors, insulation materials, sports flooring and even in shoes and socks.