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Can CO2 chemistry replace fossil-fuel based plastics?

Plastic bottles. Source Willfried Wende from Pixabay

We hear a lot about plant-based feedstock being used to replace fossil fuel-based chemicals that are ubiquitous throughout our modern lifestyle

BUT there is not enough land to grow a small percentage of the chemicals needed?

We need to think about this problem differently!

Carbon dioxide chemistry – just like biobased polymer production – is not about copying fossil polymers, but about developing better polymers, which can be processed on plastics industry’s existing devices

Researchers are working on a series of new polymers with exciting and extraordinary properties!

The production amounts are minute as yet, and the catalysts for these reactions to produce the new polymers are still being fine tuned

The first CO2 plastics on the market are polypropylene and polyethylene carbonate, and CO2 urethanes

Polypropylene carbonate (PPC), containing 43% CO2 by weight, seems to be the first important polymer in this new series. Its production now includes polymerization of conventional propylene oxide, from naphtha, with CO2.

Later (when artificial photosynthesis will have made a breakthrough), propylene oxide will be synthesized from CO2 itself, through methanol as an intermediate. By that time, the polymer will consist almost entirely of CO2, and will be 100% based on bio or recycled materials

It is a highly thermo stable polymer, very elastic, transparent, biodegradable, non-toxic, containing a ‘memory’. It can be foamed and processed into films and is easily mixed with other biopolymers like polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA)

in doing so, the plastic becomes less brittle, approaching an engineering plastic in its properties, but retaining its biodegradability

PPC is an absolute breakthrough, and the ultimate answer to polypropylene a widely used plastic in many applications today!

Polyethylene carbonate (PEC), another new CO2 plastic, is produced by polymerization of ethylene oxide with carbon dioxide

It has a very low oxygen permeability and is therefore very well suited for food packaging. In the USA, it is Food Contact Approved (AFC)

Polyurethanes, produced from polyols and CO2, are another new class of carbon dioxide polymers in development. They will initially be marketed as insulation foam and materials for mattress production

Do you think there is a better use for land than producing biopolymer substitutes when we can absorb and use CO2?

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