Are you smarter than a 5th grader? What converts carbon dioxide into oxygen using nothing more than a little sunlight and water – – trees. Actually, oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis, the process by which trees and plants make sugar to use as food. It is an essential process for humans and animals because they require oxygen to breathe. Coincidently, humans and animals exhale carbon dioxide which plants use as part of their process so it is a codependent relationship that benefits both sides. Trees act like “carbon sinks” absorbing carbon dioxide and storing it in their trunks, branches and leaves. Even when a tree is cut down, the carbon dioxide will remain in the wood preventing it from being released into the atmosphere. If scientists could replicate the process that trees use to bond the carbon dioxide and store it in their roots, trunks and branches, we could make a definite dent in air pollution. Unfortunately, the process used in the manufacture of roughly 85 percent of all chemical products, catalysis, is not applicable to carbon dioxide because of the low energy density of carbon dioxide. The exciting news is that in laboratory tests, reactions have been successful in chemically bonding carbon dioxide with other materials and this process is being tested in an industrial setting.
The “Dream Production” project brings together researchers from Bayer MaterialScience and Bayer Technology Services with RWE Power AG and academic partner RWTH Aachen University to work on the sustainable use of carbon dioxide (CO2). The project is funded, in part, by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as the industry testing will be at Chempark Leverkusen in Germany. Production of PPPs (polyether polycarbonate polyols), which will include the chemical bonding of CO2 as an integral raw material in this sustainable process, will be processed into polyurethanes.
The “Dream Production” has several green applications and eco-friendly benefits that include:
1. Taking carbon dioxide and turning it into something useful rather than allowing it to pollute the air.
2. Polyether polycarbonate polyols (PPP) are used in the automotive industry and in the manufacture of mattresses and upholstered furniture. Furthermore, “as an ultra-efficient organic insulating material, polyurethanes save around 80 times more energy during their service life than is required for their production. This ensures that PPPs have a doubly positive effect on climate protection”, according to Patrick Thomas, CEO of Bayer MaterialScience AG.
3. By using carbon dioxide (CO2) as a raw material for manufacturing polymers, the use of conventional raw materials and fossil fuels are decreased. This sustainable use of natural resources is an excellent example of green technology.
4. If the project is a success, capturing CO2 from one industry and using it within another to produce sustainable products will further promote cross-industry cooperation in finding eco-friendly and responsible solutions to the increasing problem of global warming and air pollution.
“From waste product to raw material – manufacturing quality polymer materials based on CO2 ” (BayNews, The Bayer Press Server)