Creating value added with plastics

Covestro premiere at K 2016

Creating value added with plastics

Innovative and sustainable materials help make the world a brighter place

K 2016 in Düsseldorf marks the first time that Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, is appearing at the show under its new name. The company responds to key trends with its innovative and sustainable material solutions, courageously going beyond existing limits in its efforts to make the world a brighter place. Visitors to this premier gathering for the global plastics industry can find examples on display at Covestro's Stand 75A in Hall 6: Products and technologies for the automotive, building and electronics industries, but also new and unexpected applications in the fields of health, cosmetics, sports and fashion.

“Through our continuous development to deliver more sustainable products and processes, we aim to address many of the Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations last year,” said Covestro CEO Patrick Thomas to journalists. “Our main objective is to drive energy efficiency, improve people's lives and create value, while at the same time reducing our own use of fossil resources. But developments of this kind are impossible without intensive and targeted innovation.” Dr. Markus Steilemann, Management Board Member responsible for Innovation, added: “Along the way, we also have to question previous mindsets and models, and push existing boundaries.”

The world has tremendous challenges to master. The agenda of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is wide ranging, going from fighting poverty and hunger, to securing the global energy supply, all the way to preserving the environment and our natural resources. Of central importance in this context is climate protection and reaching the targets defined at the COP21, the Paris Climate Change Conference.

Maximum benefit through smarter use of carbon
“While bearing a high level of responsibility in the way we act, our industry also delivers a wide range of solutions to tackle the issues we face on the planet today,” said Patrick Thomas. “One of the ways we intend to measure our progress is to establish a methodology, that enables us and others to value the benefits we get from carbon. By investing carbon wisely we believe we can establish real benefits to saving carbon over time during the lifetime of a particular product. In our view it is the carbon cycle that is key to fully understanding the circular economy and closing it is what drives us. It must be closed, but also generate greater value added.”

One current example is the Solar Impulse mission spearheaded by Swiss aviation pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg. They have nearly reached their goal of circumnavigating the globe in an aircraft powered solely by solar energy. Covestro is an official partner on the project, and was responsible for developing components such as an ultra-lightweight and thermal-insulating polyurethane foam that lends the cockpit its required strength while protecting the pilots from temperature extremes. “This is an impressive example of how a smart use of natural carbon compounds can help fulfill people´s visions as this plane flies without emitting CO2 as it is completely powered by the sun,” said Patrick Thomas.

Conserving fossil resources
Covestro has also used the Solar Impulse aircraft as a flying laboratory for further developing materials and making them suitable for completely different applications. The above-mentioned rigid polyurethane foam will be used in the future as high-efficiency insulation in refrigeration systems, where it reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions. “This shows how a product manufactured from fossil raw materials can offer great benefit throughout its life cycle,” said Thomas. “With developments like this, we really can help make the world a brighter place.”

Covestro achieved a pioneering breakthrough in conserving fossil resources and closing the carbon loop by using the greenhouse gas CO2 to produce premium plastics. Thanks to this alternative source of raw materials, the amount of petroleum previously used in the process can be reduced. Just a week ago, the company opened a new production plant at its Dormagen site for CO2-based polyether polyols, which will be used to manufacture flexible polyurethane foam for mattresses and upholstered furniture.

Improving the quality of life with affordable solutions
Covestro is also active in an entirely different area to improve the lives of disadvantaged segments of the population. In many parts of the world, people living in poverty or in underserved markets are directly exposed to the impacts of climate change.

Solutions are urgently needed for providing affordable housing, preserving food from spoiling and improving hygiene. Covestro has developed simple, but practical material solutions that can be installed quickly to improve people's quality of life.

“One great challenge, however, is the local conditions, above all the lack of infrastructure,” said Patrick Thomas. “Covestro therefore does not limit its activities to product development, but also coordinates projects on site. Depending on the requirements, we establish a local network of partner construction companies, contractors, government agencies, financial service providers and civil society. With this kind of proactive teamwork, we lead such projects to a successful conclusion.”

A current example is to build sustainable and affordable housing from polyurethane insulation boards. The boards are durable and offer very good thermal insulation. After just a few days, the small homes are ready for new residents and offer the refugees protection. Other Covestro developments include solar dryers and cold stores for food, as well as clean sanitary facilities. Some of these systems are already in use in Asia.

Covestro research pushes boundaries
“These are impressive examples of how innovation at Covestro is always in service of sustainability,” said Markus Steilemann. “Innovation for us is not just part of research; it also pushes boundaries in every respect. It starts with our company's employees, all of whom contribute to innovation and are the foundation of our innovation culture. And it continues with our collaboration with customers, process chains, suppliers, and universities in line with our principle of open innovation.”

Partnering with universities and scientific institutes is particularly important to research at Covestro. For this reason, the company will be holding a Science Celebration for the first time at K 2016 to honor a university professor for his or her pioneering scientific developments.

New design concept for electric cars
One of the highlights of the trade fair exhibit is a new design concept for electric cars incorporating current trends in exterior design. “The concept is our contribution to expanding this sustainable and pioneering drive technology,” said Markus Steilemann. At K 2016 the visionary concept is to be presented in the form of a contemporary electric car.

Groundbreaking materials developments from Covestro make it possible to design the front-end without any visible seams and with innovative holographic lighting. Light and the lighting effect itself now becomes the styling element. The wrap-around glazing made of polycarbonate and the use of sustainable coating and adhesive systems round out the concept.

Printing in the third dimension
Covestro is also presenting itself at K 2016 as a global leader in the development of materials for 3D printing. Its products close a gap in this field, because until now the selection of suitable materials for additive manufacturing has been very limited. New Covestro products for all the common printing methods support the trend towards 3D mass production. With their versatile properties, they pave the way to numerous new applications while still offering latitude for unique design. That´s what visitors to K 2016 will be able to see for themselves at the Covestro booth.

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