Ford to recycle CO2 into automotive foams

While at Fortune's Brainstorm E conference, Executive Chairman Bill Ford announced the company’s research into converting carbon dioxide into plastics and foams.

Dearborn, Michigan — May 18, 2016 — It’s definitely automotive recycling, but not as we know it. Ford has announced it has begun to formulate and test new foam and plastic components using carbon dioxide (CO2) as feedstock. According to a statement from Ford, researchers expect to see the new biomaterials in Ford production vehicles within five years.

The CO2 is captured from various points within the manufacturing process. The new automotive foam, formulated with up to 50 percent CO2-based polyols, is showing promise as it meets automotive test standards. It could be employed in seating and underhood applications, potentially reducing petroleum use by more than 600 million lbs annually. 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.”

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.

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.


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