Carbon dioxide? You might soon be sleeping on it

One day in the not-too-distant future, foam mattresses could provide one way of safely using waste carbon dioxide as a resource instead of emitting it into the atmosphere.

That’s what experts at Bayer MaterialScience are hoping. They’re testing ways to produce polyether polyols — used to make flexible foam — from carbon dioxide instead of from oil derivatives, and expect to have the first CO2-based products ready for market by 2015.

“The results that have been obtained so far on the use of CO2 in slabstock foam are very promising indeed,” said Hans-Georg Pirkl, a researcher with Bayer MaterialScience. “The properties of the foams we have been studying are equivalent to those of conventional grades.”

A pilot plant in Germany, operating since early 2011, has produced flexible foam using carbon dioxide from a power plant run by RWE, one of Bayer’s partners in the research. Scientists at another partner organizataion, RWTH Aachen University, are now studying the process to determine whether it’s actually helping to reduce carbon emissions from the power plant.

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