BASF, hte to produce superabsorbents from CO2

Scientists at Heidelberg's Catalysis Research Laboratory test catalysts for the as yet unknown reaction. The special homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts should function in a mild reaction environment.

CaRLa research lab – an alliance between BASF and the University of Heidelberg dedicated to homogeneous catalysis research – and hte AG, a company in which chemical giant BASF has a majority interest, are to cooperate with academic partners on a project aimed at making economical and ecological use of carbon dioxide (CO2) on an industrial scale, through the production of sodium acrylate based on CO2 and ethene.

Sodium acrylate is a key basic ingredient for high-performance polymers, like the superabsorbent polymers used in diapers. Novel method for superabsorbent intermediate synthesis should be resource-friendly and applicable to industrial processes.

To help achieve that goal, research scientists at the Heidelberg-based CaRLa, the lab held jointly by BASF and the University of Heidelberg, and at hte are developing special homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts that function in a mild reaction environment. The research partners are also seeking ways to separate the catalyst at the end of the reaction to enable its subsequent re-use.

Academic partners of the prokect are the Technischen Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and the University of Stuttgart.

BASF and hte will invest some €1.7 million in the project in the coming few years. Also, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has pledged €2.2 million in funds to support the project.

The BMBF funding measure for “Technologies for Sustainability and Climate Protection – Chemical Processes and Material use of CO2” supports projects that use CO2 as a raw material, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make methods more energy-efficient, or develop innovations for the capture or activation of CO2.

“We are delighted to have secured BMBF funding,” said Dr. Michael Limbach, overall coordinator of the project and project manager at BASF. “It enables the search for optimum catalysts and process conditions for this as yet unknown reaction to continue on a team with leading global specialists.”

The research scientists are supported in their search by hte’s state of the art high throughput screening methods. “Our technology platform ideally equips us to generate information rapidly and on a broad basis,” said Dr. Stephan Schunk, hte project manager. “The parallel testing method developed by us is a fast way of identifying promising candidates.“ This timesaving and effective method has also netted hte a nomination for this year’s German Future Prize .



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