Materials Science

Covestro develops new super-plastic with positive eco-balance

Covestro and its partners have developed a high-performance thermoplastic (HPT) that could be used in many industries in the future. This would significantly increase the sustainability and performance of products in areas such as aviation, automotive and health. The challenge now is to enable the continuous production of the new plastic on a large scale. This is the goal of a research project coordinated by Covestro and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

HPT is a high-performance plastic that can be processed by injection molding and uniquely combines numerous good properties. It is stable with high hardness and is also resistant to heat and many solvents. Test batches of the new material are already being produced.

In the current BMBF research project “DreamCompoundConti”, a continuous process will now be developed to enable environmentally compatible and economical production on an industrial scale. Covestro is working on this together with RWTH Aachen University, the Technical University Berlin, the Leipzig Plastics Center and the aircraft manufacturer Airbus as an associated partner. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the project with up to 1.5 million euros over the next three years – in the supporting program “Research for Sustainability (FONA³)” in the measure entitled “r+Impuls – Impulse für industrielle Ressourceneffizienz” (funding code 033R199).

“With this new joint project, we are underlining our efforts to produce particularly high-performance plastics in a climate-friendly and simultaneously economically efficient process,” says Dr. Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro.

Lean production process
A special feature of HPT production is that it is based on easily accessible basic chemicals. Since these are already being used for the production of foams, for example, they do not have to be produced specifically for this purpose.  A novel catalyst system now enables the production of thermoplastic HPT from these basic chemicals for the first time. This saves CO2 emissions and energy throughout the process because complex process steps are no longer required compared to the production of conventional high-performance thermoplastics.

Compared to the products already available on the market, there are quantifiable potential savings in resources: An initial Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of RWTH Aachen University for the industrial manufacturing process has shown that HPT produces more than 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions for production than similar thermoplastics. At the same time, the new continuous process, which the project partners want to develop and implement, requires fewer solvents. It therefore has a significantly better life cycle assessment than conventional processes.