Flue gases from the steel manufacturing industry contain a mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO), harmful gases for the environment but valuable components for chemical production of synthetic materials. Rigid PUR foam blocks are a recently developed synthetic material in which 20% of the oil-based reactants are replaced by waste gas from the steel industry.
Currently, the majority of foam products are reliant on the extraction of crude oil and extremely damaging to the environment. Nevertheless, foams take on a seemingly irreplaceable role in society. They are used to make many everyday products such as: air filters, insulation materials, furniture or even lightweight beams. In the quest to find more durable material compositions for plastic, Carbon4PUR is a pioneering research project, led by polymer developer Covestro, with 14 partners from 7 European countries. Their research has shown that the usage of crude oil, in the production of plastics, could partially be replaced by the use of CO2 and CO.
This new rigid foam is the result of a long chain of sustainable transformations. The production process starts with capturing CO and CO2 from steel mills. The CO is burned to release its energy and transformed in CO2. The CO2 is then combined with Ethylene Oxide. Together, they undergo many chemical transformations to be given a new life as a foam material. The innovative technology allows a reduction of the environmental impact of steel and polyurethane production of 10% by substitution of up to 20% of the oil-based reactants. It also shows the potential of CO2 as a raw material to reduce the environmental cost of many non-recyclable products. This new foam can already be used instead of environmentally harmful foams in aerospace, construction and medical industries.
This material was created within Carbon4PUR, a European consortium working to generate an economic application to CO/CO2 waste streams. The project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
Covestro is a company that specialises in the production of new polymer materials.