Production Dreams

Developing continuous process steps to scale up the production of polyether carbonate polyurethane with covalently bound carbon dioxide

© Covestro Deutschland AG

Carbon dioxide is one of the main causes of the greenhouse effect. The “Production Dreams” project aims to use it in a climate-friendly way – as the basic component of elastic plastics – so called elastomers. Elastomers are needed in the automobile, electrical and construction industries as well as in mechanical engineering. They are also applied in household goods and medical technology.

Synthetic elastomers are normally based entirely on crude oil. Around 25 percent of the oil usually used to manufacture a precursor can now be replaced by CO₂ as a primary product. The result are so called polyether carbonate-polyurethanes that can be further processed into elastomers.

The elastomers produced using CO₂ have the same high quality as those made of purely petrochemical materials. At the same time, the large-scale method the project partners want to develop and implement is much more energy efficient. It also requires fewer solvents and therefore has a much better life cycle assessment than conventional processes. Because it uses less crude oil, it avoids the processing steps prior to its use in the elastomer – this saves CO₂ emissions and energy in the process as a whole. Using carbon dioxide additionally conserves the limited resource crude oil and simultaneously extends the raw material base of the chemicals and plastics industries.

Single batches of the innovative material have already been produced in the lab. Over the course of the three-year project, a continuous method will be developed that enables economic production on an industrial scale. The plastics manufacturer Covestro and two science partners are involved in the project: The RWTH Aachen University represented by the Chair of Plastics Processing (IKV) and the Chair of Technical Thermodynamics (LTT) and the Technische Universität Berlin with the Chair of Chemical Engineering and Reaction Engineering.