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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.

About CaRLa

CaRLa, for Catalysis Research Laboratory, is a BASF- University of Heidelberg alliance dedicated to homogeneous catalysis research. Inaugurated in 2006 and certified in 2009, CaRLa is integrated in the university’s “Industry on Campus” initiative and BASF’s global cooperation network. CaRLa is staffed by an international team of six postgraduate scientists from the university and six from BASF who specialize in new homogeneous catalyst development. CaRLa’s proximity to BASF’s global Research Verbund with its Ludwigshafen based headquarters and to Heidelberg University with its Collaborative Research Center “Molecular Catalysts: Structure and Functional Design” (SFB 623) makes it the ideal setting for excellent catalysis research and swift technology transfer to industry. CaRLa’s research portfolio ranges from fundamental academic research to industry-oriented applications. More about CaRLa is available at

About hte AG, Heidelberg

hte Aktiengesellschaft (AG), a public limited company, is a leading provider of technology solutions and services for customers in the energy, refinery, chemicals and environmental sectors. Thanks to hte’s products and services, R&D in the area of heterogeneous catalysis has become considerably faster and more productive. As a reliable partner in the field of high throughput experimentation, hte offers comprehensive expertise backed up by complementary products and services: 1) technology solutions – tailor-made integrated hardware and software systems, installed and ready for use on site at the customer’s premises; 2) R&D solutions – implementation of research cooperation at hte’s own premises in Heidelberg. With its high-quality services, hte supports its customers in the search for solutions to global challenges such as climate and environmental protection, energy efficiency and mobility. The close ties with BASF guarantee long-term orientation and stability.

hte – the high throughput experimentation company.

About BASF

BASF is the world’s leading chemical company: The Chemical Company. Its portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics and performance products to agricultural products, fine chemicals as well as oil and gas. As a reliable partner BASF creates chemistry to help its customers in virtually all industries to be more successful. With its high-value products and intelligent solutions, BASF plays an important role in finding answers to global challenges such as climate protection, energy efficiency, nutrition and mobility. BASF posted sales of more than €50 billion in 2009 and had approximately 105,000employees as of the end of the year. BASF shares are traded on the stock exchanges in Frankfurt (BAS), London (BFA) and Zurich (AN). Further information on BASF is available on the Internet at


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