At the recent 17th International Conference on Carbon Dioxide Utilisation (ICCDU) conference held in Aachen, Germany, numerous scientists from all over the world discussed how carbon dioxide (CO2) can make the chemical industry less dependent on oil. During the five-day meeting co-organised by German advanced polymers producer, Covestro, the potential for CO2 as a new raw material and substitute for crude oil was on the spotlight.
For example, carbon dioxide from industrial exhaust gases and even from the atmosphere can be used to produce high-quality chemicals, plastics or fuels. This could be used to create a closed carbon cycle in the long term as a central element of a circular economy.
Walter Leitner, Professor at RWTH Aachen University and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion and one of the ICCDU Chairmen, commented: We are delighted that numerous creative ideas for the use of CO2 have already resulted in innovative products and processes that are being marketed by large industrial companies as well as agile start-ups. These are promising steps to make chemistry even more sustainable.
Co-Chairman, Dr Christoph Gürtler, Head of Catalysis Research at Covestro, said that CO2 is a very inert molecule which makes it anything but easy to use. “The key to success lies in the cooperation between application-oriented science and research-based industry,” he said. With this approach, Covestro, for example, succeeded in developing a platform technology in close cooperation with RWTH Aachen University to use CO2 as a building block for foam and other plastics.
One particular focus of the conference was the coupling of CO2 and electricity from renewable energy sources. Through this process, fuels and important chemical building blocks such as methanol, formaldehyde or formic acid can be produced in a particularly sustainable manner. “The ‘decarbonisation’ of energy generation by wind and solar plants with the help of the greenhouse gas CO2 can contribute to the ‘defossilization’ of the chemical industry,” emphasised Leitner.