Successful research for surfactants with carbon dioxide

Washing with CO2 technology


  • Novel surfactants contain up to 25 percent CO2
  • Use in detergents: tests show comparable washing performance
  • Advanced development of CO2 technology from Covestro


Covestro has scored another research success in the ongoing development of its innovative CO2 technology: As part of the "DreamResourceConti" project (FKZ 033R222) funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the materials manufacturer is examining the production of CO2-based surfactants and how they can be used to produce sustainable detergents and cleaning agents. Covestro has now presented the results at the "9th Conference on CO2-based Fuels and Chemicals" hosted by the nova Institute. “We see ourselves as a pioneer in the mission to end the use of fossil resources and make production processes more sustainable and future-proof," said Sucheta Govil, Chief Commercial Officer at Covestro and responsible for innovation. "Washing with CO2 technology is a major milestone in Covestro's recent research and development drive on the road to the Circular Economy."


More sustainable materials with comparable performance

Surfactants are found in a wide range of everyday products such as detergents, cleaning agents and personal care products and have so far been based mainly on fossil resources such as petroleum. Together with its academic partners RWTH Aachen University and TU Berlin, Covestro has now achieved an important breakthrough. “We are developing a continuous production process that facilitates the manufacture of novel surfactants based on CO2,” said Dr. Christoph Gürtler, Head of Catalysis and Technology at Covestro. "We have succeeded in replacing part of the ethylene oxide (EO) from petroleum needed for production with carbon dioxide, making surfactant materials much more sustainable."


In the future, up to 25 percent of the conventional ethylene oxide could be replaced by CO2. In addition, initial tests have shown that the novel CO2-based material can be used in standard formulations for detergents with comparable primary washing performance. In the further course of the project, a detailed characterization of the new materials by the Technical University of Berlin will provide further insights into potential fields of application so that CO2 can be optimally utilized as a raw material.  


Breakthrough based on previous research successes

The "DreamResourceConti" research success is based on the findings of the predecessor "DreamResource” project. As part of this research project, Covestro has already investigated the promising combination of ethylene oxide and CO2 and has achieved a breakthrough for use in the construction sector. Now the CO2 technology has been expanded to include the "washing" application area.


Covestro has already been marketing CO2-based materials under the name  cardyon® since 2016. These can be used, for example, in the production of flexible polyurethane foam in mattresses, binders for sports floors or elastic fibers. Also, this product is only be provided in European market so far.