news / 2013-04-12

From climate killer to comfortable mattress

Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer (IASS), Prof. Dr. Bernhard Rieger (TU München), Federal Minister Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka, Prof. Dr. Kurt Wagemann (DECHEMA) and Frank Grunert (Bayer Material Science) present results of the research into the use of CO2 at a conference in April 2013 in Berlin. © Christina Geimer, BINE Informationsdienst

The technology is available for separating CO2 from flue gas. But what should be done with the separated CO2? Underground storage is controversial and expensive. Researchers are developing ways of using CO2, for example as a raw material in the plastics industry.

One of the research projects is called “Dream Reaction”, and this name is also the motto for the entire branch: the aim is to chemically bind CO2, which as a raw material displays low reaction kinetics, with the lowest possible energy ratio. In chemical terms, CO2 is at the end of the combustion chain, and is therefore low in energy. The researchers are studying catalysts, which act as marriage brokers for CO2 in chemical processes.

In the “Dream Production” project, researchers, coordinated by Bayer Material Science, have found such a catalyst. They used CO2 which had been separated from the flue gas of a coal-fired power plant as the initial material for the plastic polyurethane. The CO2 used here replaces part of the crude oil needed for production.

Polyurethane foam materials are used in the production of foam mattresses or lightweight construction elements, for example. The share of CO2 in polyurethane is in the double-figure percentage range. As a result, millions of tonnes of CO2 can potentially be used.
CO2 could replace crude oil in industry

However, this figure is still relatively low compared to the levels of CO2 produced annually. For example, the Scholven hard coal-fired power plant alone emits over nine million tonnes of CO2 every year.

“We will not save the climate just by making material use of CO2. However, all the crude oil currently used for plastics production could be replaced”, said German Federal Minister of Education and Research, Johanna Wanka, clarifying the potential for the application technology at a status conference of the research partnership in April 2013. She forecasts that a maximum of ten per cent of all CO2 emissions produced by humans could be materially bound.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting around 30 research projects through the “Technologies for sustainability and climate protection – Chemical processes and use of CO2” funding measure, with a total of 100 million euros in funds. For more details on the individual projects, visit

Projects currently being funded