LONDON—Covestro A.G.'s progress in commercializing polyurethane foam materials employing carbon dioxides as a feedstock will be replicated in the field of thermoplastics polyurethane elastomers, according to CEO Patrick Thomas.
The Leverkusen, Germany-based company already has established a 4,000 metric ton per year plant for the manufacture of the CO2-based polyol feedstock and envisions building a 100,000 ton per year facility in the next five years.
Among Covestro's other target applications for CO2 are TPU elastomers—block copolymers comprising alternating sequences of hard and soft segments formed by reacting diisocyanates with short-chain diols and long-chain diols.
There are, though, technical challenges, Thomas explaining that the TPU polymer molecules are "very sensitive" to molecular-build up due to the nature of the polyester polyols. He added that end properties are highly dependent on the polymerisation processes.
"When you introduce something like CO2, you can actually destabilize that [process], so it needs a little more experimental work to actually find out," Thomas said.
"Flexible polyols [are] probably the easiest, rigid polyols a bit more difficult, TPUs quite a lot more difficult. I think [TPUs] will get there, it is just the chemistry and the development process."