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By TT News| May 05, 2021

Covestro's New CO₂ Technology Earns 2021 European Inventor Award Nomination

Covestro's Dr Christoph Gurtler and Prof Walter Leitner from Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion and RWTH Aachen University have been nominated by the European Patent Office (EPO) as finalists in the ‘Industry’ category of the 2021 European Inventor Award for their role in developing a new technology for using carbon dioxide (CO₂).

The new technology enables climate gas CO2 to be used as a raw material for sustainable plastics and forms the basis for a large number of marketable products. The process involves deploying chemical catalysts to drive reactions between CO2 and a conventional raw material, resulting in creation of polymers in a more sustainable and economically viable way while firmly incorporating CO2 in the process.

Gurtler, who is responsible for the development of new processes and products at Covestro, said, "This nomination is an important confirmation of our efforts towards making chemistry more sustainable. It shows how crucial patents are for the development process of a technology. It is a tremendous honour to be part of the award ceremony on behalf of the interdisciplinary team from product research, process development, marketing and the many other minds driving our invention."

Covestro and RWTH Aachen University founded the CAT Catalytic Center in 2007. "The scientific community has long had the desire to be able to use carbon dioxide as a supplier of carbon for plastics. Experts have been working on this issue for nearly half a century," explains Leitner.

The main roadblock for Gurtler and Leitner's team was that CO2 forms chemical compounds only with great difficulty. The team combined industrial and academic expertise and finally achieved success by experimenting with different catalysts. The breakthrough was achieved by precisely controlling the reaction between CO2 and petroleum-based propylene oxide in the presence of a customised catalyst system. "We collaborated closely to develop the right catalyst that led us to success," explains Gurtler.

The resulting product, which was introduced to the market by Covestro under the name cardyon, is already being used to produce soft foam for mattresses, for adhesives in sports floors, padding in shoes and in car interiors. Research projects have successfully demonstrated that CO2 can also be deployed for insulating materials made of rigid foam and for surfactants.

Dr Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro, said, "The plastics industry can make a significant contribution to combating climate change by switching to greenhouse gas-neutral production. To achieve this, we need to break away from petroleum and use alternative raw materials such as CO2. The nomination for the European Inventor Award is an endorsement of our company as a pioneer in this field. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to the many colleagues, including those at our partners, who contributed to the development of the innovative CO2 technology – a genuine sustainability highlight."

Gurtler and Leitner's team will compete with two other teams in the category at an online award ceremony scheduled for June 17. (TT)

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