Ford first to use captured CO2 to make foam and plastic for cars

Posted on 17 May 2016 by Tim Brown
The toughest, smartest, most capable and safest F-150 ever is also the greenest according to Ford - image courtesy of Ford
The new F-150 is the greenest ever according to Ford and it could get even more so - image courtesy of Ford.

Ford Motor Company is the first automaker to formulate and test new foam and plastic components made from captured carbon dioxide.

Formulated with up to 50% CO2-based polyols, the foam developed by Ford has shown promise as it meets rigorous automotive test standards.

The company said the new materials could be employed in seating and underhood applications, potentially reducing petroleum use by more than 270,000 tonnes – enough to fill approximately 108 olympic-sized swimming pools.

CO2-derived foam will further reduce the use of fossil fuels in Ford vehicles and increase the presence of sustainable foam in the automaker’s global lineup.

“Ford is working aggressively to lower its environmental impact by reducing its use of petroleum-based plastic and foam,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader of sustainability. “This technology is exciting because it is contributing to solving a seemingly insurmountable problem – climate change. We are thrilled to be leading the charge toward reducing carbon emissions and the effects of climate change.”

Plastics play their part in climate change

Carbon emissions and climate change are of growing concern to world leaders as a staggering 2.4 million pounds of CO2 are released into the atmosphere globally per second. Plastic manufacturing accounts for nearly 4 percent of the world’s oil use, according to British Plastic Federation. Ford researchers are hopeful the company’s early steps to use captured carbon in innovative ways will help achieve the long-term goals to reduce global warming recently set in the UN Paris Agreement.

For nearly two decades, researchers have worked successfully to develop sustainable materials for Ford products. In North America, soy foam is in every Ford vehicle. Coconut fiber backs trunk liners; recycled tires and soy are in mirror gaskets; recycled T-shirts and denim go into carpeting; and recycled plastic bottles become REPREVE fabric used in the 2016 F-150.

Ford began working with several companies, suppliers and universities in 2013 to find applications for captured CO2. Among them is Novomer – a New York-based company that utilizes carbon dioxide captured from manufacturing plants to produce innovative materials. Through a system of conversions, Novomer produces a polymer than can be formulated into a variety of materials including foam and plastic that are easily recyclable.

“Novomer is excited by the pioneering work Ford has completed with our Converge CO2-based polyols,” said Peter Shepard, Novomer chief business officer. “It takes bold, innovative companies such as Ford to enable new technologies to become mainstream products.”

“At Ford, we’re aggressively developing new, more sustainable ways to produce high-quality products, with an eye toward preserving and improving our world,” said Mielewski.