Scientists pioneer a way to make everyday goods from carbon dioxide

Jon Lawson

A British team of scientists has announced a major breakthrough in the fight against climate change with the creation of a new tunable catalyst capable of utilising captured carbon dioxide as a key raw material for polyols. Econic Technologies is hoping that by 2027, 30% of all polyol production will take place using the catalyst, meaning that 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved each year – the equivalent to taking two million cars off the road.
With a global market valued in excess of £15 billion, polyols are the key building blocks in polyurethane, which is used to make automobiles, bedding, furniture, footwear and other household and industrial products. Econic Technologies’ new tunable catalyst now enables polyol manufacturers to incorporate bespoke amounts of captured CO2 emissions into these polyol chains during the manufacturing process. The amount of CO2 can be dialled up or down depending on the performance requirements of the application.
The tunable catalyst means that CO2 can be incorporated at low pressures via equipment that is retrofitted easily and economically to existing production plants. By allowing for a reduction of oil-based feedstocks, the catalyst could save a typical production unit with an output of 50kte/annum in excess of £36 million per year.
What’s more, not only does the catalyst enable manufacturers to use their own carbon dioxide emissions as a raw material, but by reducing quantities of environmentally demanding, oil-based inputs, it also further lowers emissions.
Dr Rowena Sellens, CEO of Econic Technologies, commented on the launch: “From cars and mattresses, to footwear and fridges, polyols and the polyurethanes they make are a fundamental component of an incredibly wide range of applications. The positive potential for businesses and the planet, provided by Econic Technologies’ catalysts, is huge – and so are our ambitions.
“As the tunable catalyst moves out the lab and into mainstream use, we are aiming to work with our customers to totally transform polyurethane manufacturing: making it greener, cheaper and safer.”

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