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Basics CO 2 CO 2

Basics CO 2 CO 2 Photosynthesis Metabolism Artificial Photosynthesis Industrial usage Carbohydrates Energy / Material Resources Fig. 2: The carbon cycle as occurring in nature (left) and the envisioned carbon cycle for the ‘CO 2 Economy’ (right). Bayer Material Science exhibited polyurethane blocks at ACHEMA, which were made from CO 2 polyols. CO 2 replaces some of the mineral oils used. Industrial manufacturing of foams for mattresses and insulating materials for fridges and buildings is due to start in 2015. Noteworthy is the fact that the CO 2 used by Bayer Material Science is captured at a lignite-fired power plant, thus contributing to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Implementing a CO 2 economy These examples, combined with the strong research efforts of different corporations and national research programs, are disclosing a future where we will probably be able to implement a real ‘CO 2 Economy’; where CO 2 will be seen as a valuable raw material rather than a necessary evil of our fossil-fuel based modern life style. Steps toward the implementation of such a vision are already in place. The concept of Artificial Photosynthesis (APS) is a remarkable example (Fig. 2). This field of chemical production is aiming to use either CO 2 recaptured from a fossil fuel combustion facility, or acquiring CO 2 from the atmosphere together with water and sunlight to obtain what is often defined as ‘solar fuel’ - mainly methanol or methane. The word ‘fuel’ is used in a broad sense: it refers not only to fuel for transportation or electricity generation, but also to feedstocks for the chemicals and plastics industries. However research is also focused on other chemicals, such as, for example, the direct formation of formic acid. Efforts are in place to mimic the natural photosynthesis to such an extent that even glucose or other fermentable carbohydrates are foreseen as possible products. Keeping this in mind, a vision where carbohydrates, generated by APS, will be used in subsequent biotechnological fermentation to obtain almost any desired chemicals or bio-plastics (such as PLA, PHB and others) can become reality in a future that is nearer than expected. The Panasonic Corporation for example, released its first prototype of a working APS device (Fig. 3) that shows the same efficiency of photosynthetic plants and is able to produce formic acid from water, sunlight and CO 2 ; formic acid is a bulk chemical that is required in many industrial processes. Water oxidation by light energy CO 2 reduction Carbon dioxide water Light source Oxygen Nitride Semiconductor Metal catalyst Formic acid Fig. 3: Panasonic scheme of its fully functioning artificial photosynthesis device (Courtesy of Panasonic Corporation). 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/12] Vol. 7

We can conclude that artificial photosynthesis and modern chemistry will give us the chance to transform the chemicals and plastics industries into really sustainable industries in terms of raw materials supply and climate protection. The technological conversion from today´s chemistry to molecules and products obtained from CO 2 ’that is itself recovered from flue-gases or even from the atmosphere’ is a real opportunity for our economies to create a new market and improve the quality of our environment. If this target is reached, mankind will be able to extend the high living standard reached by advanced economies to the whole world without the typical negative environmental spin-offs related to economic growth. Info: More info on what production of plastics from CO 2 will be like tomorrow at Carbon Dioxide as Feedstock for Chemistry and Polymers, a conference organized by nova-Institute in Essen, Germany, 10-11 th October 2012. Register now! 6/7 November 2012 Maritim proArte Hotel Berlin Conference contact: c +49 .30 28 48 23 50 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/12] Vol. 7 47

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