Chemicals from the Smokestack: New Developments Turn CO2 into Raw Material
Cradle-to-cradle means the “make new from old” concept of “sustaining” a raw material in a continuous cycle. 5000 tons per annum poly-oil are only the beginning, they say in Leverkusen. Covestro interprets the investment as an opportunity of experiencing the technology. Interested third parties will be given access to the process within the framework of a license (see box). A gigantic effort considering the global demand of 15 billion tons of PUR – a market with an average 5% growth rate per annum.
The hunt continues
Elsewhere too, the test tubes are glowing: In April 2016, the biotechnology company Brain and Südzucker disclosed that it is working on the microbiological synthesis of Carboxylic acid from CO2.
After the first trials with a two-phase process on a laboratory scale, the Strategic Alliance Zero Carb FP process is being tested at a bio-ethanol plant in Phase 2. In this context, the intermediate products occurring from CO2 like mono- or di Carboxylic acid will be used to manufacture polymers and plastics.
Even formic acid is being queried as target molecule, as it occurs under comparatively milder reaction conditions (approx. 30 bar and 25 °C). At present, scientists of the University of Stuttgart, of the German Centre for Air and Space Travel and of the Plinke Company are working on this project.
Researchers are relying on catalytic micro-reactors with which 1.5 kg of CO2 is being converted at present per sqm. of electrode area per hour. Formic acid is required in the textile industry, but it can also serve as energy storage, as it disintegrates into Hydrogen and CO2.