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CO- and CO2-chemistry

utilizing CO/CO2


Turning CO/CO2-containing industrial process gas into valuable building blocks for the polyurethane industry

Transforming the chemical industry from finite fossil to renewable carbon resources displays one of the major challenges of the 21st century. At the same time the steel industry needs to reduce the CO2 emissions of the blast furnaces to decrease its environmental impact. Turning this lose–lose into a win–win situation is the basic concept of the EU-funded Carbon4PUR project. The project tackles a first concept of how the carbon content of blast furnace gas (BFG), a CO/CO2-containing process gas from steel production, could be utilized in a sequence of selective chemical conversion steps to produce high value intermediates for the polymer industry. In this context, CAT Catalytic Center is contributing with the development of novel catalysts at the chemical heart of the developed chemical technology. For scientific details, check out our latest joined publication on the topic:

Turning CO/CO2-containing industrial process gas into valuable building blocks for the polyurethane industry – Reaction Chemistry & Engineering (RSC Publishing)

Check out the project website for more information:


Resource-efficient production



Surface-active materials are very versatile and are used in many areas of everyday life. Examples are in detergents and household cleaners, in the textile and oil industry as well as in pharmaceuticals and agriculture. They are produced on a large industrial scale based on fossil feedstocks like ethylene oxide (EO) and therefore provide a significant potential for more sustainable solutions.

In the previous project „DreamResource“ it was shown that it is possible to replace more than 16 percent of the EO with carbon dioxide (CO2). These polyols could be used for rigid polyurethane foams, but the technology is also suitable for producing surface-active substances. The „DreamResourceConti“ project is now intended to increase the degree of technological maturity by optimizing the technology and increasing the production scale. The project partners want to develop a continuous production process and extend the use of CO2 to additional areas of application. The use of CO2 as an additional component for surface-active materials in this regard broadens the raw material base for many applications. In addition, the greenhouse gas CO2 is recycled via chemical incorporation into the material, which is an important step on the way to a functioning, climate-friendly circular economy. In this context, CAT Catalytic Center is contributing with detailed computational analysis of the applied catalytic technology in order to understand and further fine-tune the respective catalytic process.

For „DreamResourceConti“, two academic partners and one company join forces. In addition to application-oriented technical development, this cooperation also brings advantages for the analysis of results. The cooperation promotes understanding through the intensive characterization and analysis of the novel substances. In addition, environmental and technological-economic assessments make it easier to assess the potential of this innovative technology.



CO2 replaces


CO2 replaces fossil resources

The vision of realizing a new industrial process utilizing CO2 as polymer building block was formulated in early 2008. Since then the topic has received immense attention in the scientific community as well as industry. The choice of the right catalyst in combination with appropriate reaction engineering has been the key to develop a new process for the production of CO2-basedpolyols and the design of tailor-made polymeric materials. Today, based on this revolutionary award-winning process, that has been co-developed by the RWTH Aachen and Covestro, CO2 can be recycled as an environmentally friendly raw material for plastics production. The produced polyols are for example utilized for the more sustainable production of mattresses and sports floors. Currently the product scope is expanded to the automotive industry and even raw materials for clothing and building insulation could be based on this technology in the future.


Carbon dioxide, a renewable resource

Carbon dioxide (CO2) as sustainable feedstock for polyurethane production

Jens Langanke, Aurel Wolf, Jörg Hofmann, Katrin Böhm, Muhammad A. Subhani, Thomas E. Müller, Walter Leitner and Christoph Gürtler

A dream comes true: tailor-made polyethercarbonate polyols are synthesised from propylene oxide and CO2. Molecular weight and functionality of these polyethercarbonate polyols are controlled by the use of an appropriate alcohol starter enabling innovative applications as a polymer building block. Interestingly, the properties of the polyethercarbonate polyols can be adjusted in a wide range by tuning CO2 content and architecture. The feasibility of using such tailored polyethercarbonate polyols in the production of polyurethanes is demonstrated as a prime example for a novel CO2 utilization with industrial potential.

read more: Green Chem. 2014, 16, 1865

Life cycle assessment of polyols for polyurethane production using CO2 as feedstock: insights from an industrial case study

Niklas von der Assena and André Bardow

Polyethercarbonate polyols from carbon dioxide (CO2) are starting to be synthesized on industrial scale. These polyols can be further processed into polyurethanes enabling CO2 to be utilized in large amounts. Utilization of CO2 as alternative carbon feedstock for polyols is motivated from the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fossil resource depletion. This article presents a life cycle assessment for production of CO2-based polyethercarbonate polyols in a real industrial pilot plant. The considered cradle-to-gate system boundaries include polyol production and all upstream processes such as provision of energy and feedstocks. In particular, provision of CO2 from a lignite power plant equipped with a pilot plant for CO2 capture is considered. Production of polyols with 20 wt% CO2 in the polymer chains causes GHG emissions of 2.65–2.86 kg CO2-eq kg−1 and thus, does not act as GHG sink. However, compared to production of conventional polyether polyols, production of polyols with 20 wt% CO2 allows for GHG reductions of 11–19%. Relating GHG emission reductions to the amount of CO2 incorporated, up to three kg CO2-eq emissions can be avoided per kg CO2 utilized. The use of fossil resources can be reduced by 13–16%. The impacts reductions increase with further increasing the CO2 content in the polyols. All other investigated environmental impacts such as eutrophication, ionizing radiation, ozone depletion, particulate matter formation, photochemical oxidant formation, and terrestrial acidification are also lowered. Therefore, synthesis of polyethercarbonate polyols from CO2 is clearly favorable compared to conventional polyether polyols from an environmental point of view.

read more: Green Chem., 2014,16, 3272-3280

Further information

Sustainable carbon sources for the chemical industry – New products based on CO2 as a building block for polyurethane plastics

C. Gürtler

Carbon2Polymer – Chemical Utilization of CO2 in the Production of Isocyanates

Walter Leitner, Giancarlo Franciò, Martin Scott, Christian Westhues, Jens Langanke, Markus Lansing, Christine Hussong, Eric Erdkamp

Chemie Ingenieur Technik (2018), 90(10), 1504-1512

Carbon Dioxide Utilisation – Closing the Carbon Cycle

Peter Styring, Elsje Alessandra Quadrelli and Katy Armstrong

About the book

CO2 chemistry

Mueller, Thomas E.; Leitner Walter

CO2 as a chemical building block

Reese, Jack; Haider, Karl; Guertler, Christoph

Sustainable carbon sources for the chemical industry – New products based on CO 2 as a building block for polyurethane plastics

Guertler, C.

Chemie Ingenieur Technik (2018), 90(9), 1141

Carbon dioxide as a carbon resource – recent trends and perspectives

Hoelscher, Markus; Guertler, Christoph; Keim, Wilhelm; Mueller, Thomas E.; Peters, Martina; Leitner, Walter

Zeitschrift fuer Naturforschung, B: A Journal of Chemical Sciences (2012), 67(10), 961-975

Worldwide Innovations in the Development of Carbon Capture Technologies and the Utilization of CO2

Peter Markewitz, Wilhelm Kuckshinrichs, Walter Leitner, Jochen Linssen, Petra Zapp, Richard Bongartz, Andrea Schreiber and Thomas E. Müller

Energy Environ. Sci., 2012, 5, 7281

Chemical Technologies for Exploiting and Recycling Carbon Dioxide into the Value Chain

Martina Peters, Burkhard Köhler, Wilhelm Kuckshinrichs, Walter Leitner, Peter Markewitz and Thomas E. Müller

ChemSusChem, 2011, 4, 1216

CO2 Fixation in Polymers

Thomas E. Müller