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Scientists to produce suberabsorbents from carbon dioxide

CaRLa research lab and hte AG are to cooperate with academic partners on a publicly funded Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) project

Novel method for superabsorbent intermediate synthesis should be resource-friendly and applicable to industrial processes

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has pledged €2.2 million in funds for a project by the BASF-supported Catalysis Research Laboratory (CaRLa) and hte AG, a company in which BASF has a majority interest. The goal of the project, which takes place with the cooperation of research scientists at Technischen Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and the University of Stuttgart, is to make 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. BASF and hte have earmarked another €1.7 million for the project in the coming few years to top up the BMBF funding.

"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." 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.

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 .

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.

Media contact: Dr. Manuela Kummeter Phone: +49 621 60-41040 Fax: +49 621 60-92693 manuela.kummeter@basf.com

Further contacts: CaRLa Dr. Michael Limbach Phone: +49 621 60-48957 Fax: +49 621 60-6648957 michael.limbach@basf.com

hte Dr. Michael Paul Phone: +49 6221 7497-282 Fax: +49 6221 7497-134 michael.paul@hte-company.de

idw :: 26.11.2010