June 10, 2012 – Vol.17 No.13
THINK GREEN PLASTICS TO STORE CARBON DIOXIDE.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
Much of the United States had no Winter this year. For only the third time, two named tropical storms formed in the Atlantic in May. (Hurricane season usually starts in June.) It has been the hottest Spring on record, an astounding 5.2 degrees F above the 1901-2000 long-term average and largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States. And, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2012, so far, is warmest year-to-date, and warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since record keeping began in 1895.
All this and climate deniers say it’s just a coincidence that record levels of greenhouse gas emissions, global industrialization and a warming planet are happening at the same time.
Solving climate change – keeping the planet from overheating – isn’t about making money. However, no one is expected to work for free. This is capitalism after all. Those with the technologies that result in the reduction of greenhouse gases will get paid for their efforts, handsomely, if their innovations work out in the marketplace.
Eventually, getting a grip on climate change will mean more than just cutting emissions, switching to clean energy, or even sequestering carbon dioxide from power plants. Getting a grip will mean all kinds of new innovations, innovations that will give us the same lifestyle that we have now. As deniers should know, innovations can make money. So are deniers not good businessmen for ignoring the innovative possibilities of climate change?
Efforts to sequester carbon dioxide from power plants by pumping it into spent wells seem expensive and a waste of a potential money making opportunity. Wouldn’t it make more sense to capture CO2 and make something out of it? There are efforts already to use carbon dioxide to make new hydrocarbon fuels. At best, though, these would be carbon neutral fuels, kind of like treading water, not reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. A smarter thing to do would be make goods, solid things, products or parts of products, out of CO2: Plastic things for instance.
Below is an innovation from Siemens of Germany and its partners;
In cooperation with various project partners, Siemens researchers have developed a new recipe for plastic made primarily of renewable resources and CO2. The new material is an alternative to standard polystyrene-based acrylonitrite-butadiene-styrene (ABS) polymer. The new polymer is much "greener" than ABS even though the physical properties of the two materials are similar. In order to demonstrate how practical the new polymer is, scientists used it to create a vacuum cleaner cover. The new material is the result of a three-year project on research into CO2 as an ingredient for polymers. The project, which was recently completed, was funded by the German Research Ministry.
Until now, plastic has mostly been made from fossil fuels such as natural gas or oil. However, according to experts, plastic will increasingly be made of renewable raw materials in order to improve its environmental performance and conserve resources. Many of these organic polymers are already available on the market, where they are used for food packaging, for example. Their properties do not fully match those of technical polymers, which is why they sometimes have to be optimized in line with the application in question.
In cooperation with project partners from BASF, Munich Technical University, and the University of Hamburg, scientists at Siemens' global research unit Corporate Technology developed an alternative for the standard polymer ABS, which is frequently used for consumer products. The new composite material is a competitive alternative to ABS. It is a mixture containing poly‚hydroxybutyrate (PHB), which is made from renewable raw materials such as palm oil and starch. Since PHB is brittle, polypropylene carbonate (PPC) from BASF is added to make it softer. PPC consists of 43 percent carbon dioxide (by weight), which is obtained from power plant emissions using a separation process. In addition to being transparent, biodegradable, and resistant to light, PPC can be easily processed.
More than 70 percent of the new mixture is made of green polymers. The new material is a suitable alternative for ABS in practice, as demonstrated by Bosch-Siemens-Hausgerate (BSH), which used it to make a vacuum cleaner cover under series-production conditions. In cooperation with BSH and BASF, the Siemens researchers now want to examine whether they can replace other types of plastic used by BSH with CO2-based composite materials.
One vacuum cleaner cover won’t save the world. But, there are dozens of things around my house that are made of plastics, probably in your house too. I don’t how many millions of tons of plastics are produced every year, but you’d think there’d be a significant reduction in CO2 if plastics were, in essence, a sequestering medium for the greenhouse gas.
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