Novomer re-uses carbon dioxide as a major input in a low-cost, precision-quality, chemical process that produces polymers, plastics and other chemicals. The company is building the partnerships to turn these materials into environmentally friendly, green synthetic products that can replace and improve the role of plastics.
Plastic production accounts for 4 percent of U.S. energy consumption, and these synthetic goods generate millions of tons of waste in landfills across the country each year. About 150 million tons of plastics is produced globally in a year, and most of it is not biodegradable and from energy-intensive processes that use petroleum-based feedstock. Novomer, a company based in Ithaca, N.Y. has developed chemical, catalyst-based processes to create plastics and other materials out of CO2.
While most plastics are made using fossil fuels, Novomer’s President Charles Hamilton indicates that the company can replace 50 percent of its material with substances like CO2. The company uses a variety of catalysts (mostly metals) to react with CO2 to form the product. These innovative materials can be used for a variety of applications including injection molded parts, building materials, coatings and adhesives.
The company develops complex materials from simple renewable building blocks. Founded in 2004, Novomer is based on pioneering catalyst research from Geoffrey Coates' research group at Cornell. The ground breaking technology allows carbon dioxide and other renewable materials to be cost-effectively transformed into polymers and plastics for use on a world-wide scale.
Bioplastics — plastics made out of plants — is also a growing field, which is delivering more eco-friendly materials. But since Novomer uses synthetic chemistry to develop its product, it’s not reliant on the availability of certain plants (or even food crops,) and doesn’t require the energy input needed to break down plants. Hamilton believes this makes his company’s technology a more attractive alternative.