It seems like every other day an announcement is made by some college that its researchers have made plastic out of some crazy material, ranging from mushrooms to clam shells. Hey, plastic is carbon and hydrogen and can theoretically be made out of just about anything. Follow-up interviews with the researchers usually indicate they have no clue if their inventions have any commercial viability. Most do not, and they disappear pretty quickly.
Cornell University last week reported that one of its lab creations is having its commercial debut.
A plastic made from carbon dioxide based on catalysts invented in the lab of Geoffrey Coates, professor of chemistry and chemical biology, is now being sold by a German supplier of industrial adhesives for use in polyurethane hot-melt adhesives.
The polypropylene carbonate (PPC) polyols chemistry that started with Coates is a new building block for adhesives, coatings, sealants, elastomers, and rigid and flexible foams. The PPC polyols are more than 40 percent by weight carbon dioxide, which provides strength to polyurethane systems and is cheaper than fossil fuels. Conventional polyether polyols are 100 percent proplylene oxide. Up to 50 percent of that can be replaced with PPC. After Cornell developed the concept, a spinoff company called Novomer in Waltham, Massachusetts, identified the polyurethane market as an attractive marketplace for the technology.
The goal is to use waste carbon dioxide, which provides the added benefit of chemically locking up the greenhouse gas.
The big payoff would be the ability to use this new plastic in foams, which are very high volume applications where OEMs have been open to environmental benefits. One example has been the use of soy as a feedstock by Ford.
Novomer’s initial product offerings – 1000 and 2000 molecular weight grades – are manufactured at a multi-thousand-ton commercial-scale toll facility in Houston, Texas