The plastic industry is constantly engineering new ways to bring people affordable, highly versatile materials while reducing their carbon footprint. One of the latest green solutions in plastic manufacturing comes in the form of a polyol largely comprised of recycled CO2. Several companies are now working with this polyol with a variety of aims, most of them focused on commercial enterprises.
The Role of CO2 in the New Polyol
Until recently, your average polyol or standard thermoplastic relied primarily on fossil fuels in its manufacturing. Now, the pollutive waste gas CO2 is being used to at least partially substitute the fossil fuels that go into manufacturing a polyol-based material. Many years of work resulted in an ingenious catalyst that finally allows waste gases to be plucked from the environment which it pollutes and instead harness its properties for beneficial plastic manufacturing. In some cases, these polymers are now replacing up to 50% of their mass with CO2 as opposed to fossil fuels. The result is a polyol that takes waste gas with a profound negative impact on the environment and harnesses its attributes for structural benefits.
Saving the Environment While Saving Money
But this isn’t just a polyol that’s easier on the environment. It’s easier on the wallet too. Gaseous CO2 exhaust is a low cost commodity and these savings are expected to be passed on to consumers of products that make use of the polyol. When using CO2 as a feedstock, companies have noted as much as a 95% savings in using the waste gas when compared to fossil fuel-based feedstocks. Manufacturing fees are further reduced in countries where carbon taxes are levied against producers. It’s estimated that the new CO2-based polyol will boast up to a 30% improvement on cost when compared to other polyols relying solely on petroleum and other fossil fuels in their manufacturing.
One of the reasons that CO2 is inexpensive as a commodity is that it is plentiful. Because of this abundance, plastic manufacturers point out that a polyol created with CO2 will run less risk of stock shortages. Feedstocks that rely solely on fossil fuels are more prone to shortages based on market behavior whereas catalyzed waste gas is almost always in stock.
Physical Benefits of the CO2-Based Polyol
The structural integrity of a CO2-based polyol is sound enough to compete with conventional polyols. Some manufacturers, such as Novomer, are even offering to create custom made polymers to meet specific desired properties with their new polyol. Research has shown that a polyol designed using CO2 as a component exhibits unique properties that will undoubtedly be beneficial in the manufacturing of commercial products. Elastomers and adhesives will benefit from more tenacious adhesion as well as a juxtaposition of flexibility and strength. Likewise, in polyurethane foam, the polyol exhibits greater strength and less heat of combustion.
While a polyol that uses CO2 in its construction can be used in products as diverse as insulation, appliance components, and parts for automobiles, you’re likely to first experience the polyol in polyurethane foam used to stuff mattresses. Several companies are already ambitiously pursuing manufacturing goals with the new polyol so you can expect the inexpensive, eco-friendly material to be coming soon to a mattress near you.