Sustainable materials that help to conserve resources and to reduce energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are a focus at Covestro. For example, the company plans to use CO2 as an alternative building block for various plastics, replacing a proportion of the petrochemical precursors otherwise used here. The company has already achieved a breakthrough in this direction with its cardyon technology. The material (polyol) produced using this technology contains 20 percent CO2 and is a precursor for foam used in mattresses and upholstered furniture. Covestro brought the first industrial-scale production plant for this polyol on stream in 2016.
Invented more than 75 years ago at Covestro’s main site in Leverkusen, polyurethanes exhibit a sustainability effect in a variety of key areas, such as thermal insulation in buildings and refrigerated appliances. For these applications, the company has developed a foam with particularly fine pores that reduce thermal conductivity by an additional ten percent.
New polyurethane-based materials are also contributing to sustainability in automotive engineering, for instance in the form of lightweight components that help cars to consume less fuel. Polycarbonate, a high-performance plastic invented over 60 years ago at Covestro’s Krefeld-Uerdingen site, addresses these same issues.
It is also used throughout today’s automobile, including in the LED lenses increasingly found in headlights. Light-emitting diodes are much more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. The plastic is also driving advances in consumer electronics. Its extraordinary light weight, stability and flame retardance makes it the material of choice for the casings of ultramobile notebook computers, for instance.
Extremely thin films are also produced from polycarbonate. These can be provided with holographic functions for use in flat-panel 3D displays – another area in which Covestro researchers are working.