Stories of inventors and their inventions: Dr. Christoph Gürtler and Prof. Dr. Walter Leitner

This article was written by the IP & I Team of EIT InnoEnergy

We all read stories about the innovators of today and how their products or services make a difference. In this series of publications, we shed light on a side that often remains in the dark and unknown to the public: their patented inventions and the impact they have had on other innovators across society. We did the research and summarised our findings.

The manufacturing of plastics is one of the major contributors to the global carbon footprint. Requiring large amounts of carbon in their production process, the polymers in foams and plastics used in clothes, sports goods, insulation, furniture, and components of electronic devices, use between 6-8% of the worlds fossil fuel production. German chemists Dr. Christoph Gürtler and Prof. Dr. Walter Leitner, together with a team of specialists, have pioneered a technique to use waste carbon dioxide (CO₂) as a replacement for a major portion of the carbon (traditionally generated from fossil fuels) used to create plastics.

Born in 1967, Dr. Christoph Gürtler is a German chemist who studied chemistry at the University of Bonn and subsequently got his PhD at the Technical University of Berlin. After obtaining a postdoc from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) he joined the central research department at Bayer AG and to date, holds more than 140 patents and patent applications to his name. He is currently the Head of Catalysis and Technology Incubation at Covestro, a German company which produces a variety of polyurethane and polycarbonate based raw materials.

Born in Pfarrkirchen, Germany, in 1963, Prof. Dr. Walter Leitner is a chemist who studied at the University of Regensburg and received his doctorate from the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry. He is active in numerous scientific societies and among various other distinguished positions, Prof. Leitner was appointed Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion (MPI CEC) in October of 2017, where he was appointed scientific director of the "Molecular Catalysis" Department.

In 2007, the two inventors were part of an collaboration aimed at combining academic research with industrial know-how - a joint research laboratory named CAT Catalytic Center, between RWTH Aachen University and Covestro. Together with their team, they developed a method which uses specific catalysts to cause reactions between CO₂ and a crude oil derivative, resulting in a viscous liquid product known as a polyol which can subsequently be used for the production of matrasses, insulation, clothes, sports goods and other plastics used in everyday life.

This patented technique solves two major problems by reducing fossil fuel consumption while recycling waste CO₂ at the same time. This product developed by them is named Cardyon, and is patented and commercialised by Covestro. The company is currently involved in production at its pilot plant in Dormagen, Germany, sourcing the necessary waste CO₂ from other factories located in the industrial park.

Between them, the two inventors hold over 100 patents on the use of CO2 in the production of plastics and among various other honors and awards to their name, they are one of the finalists for the Inventor Award 2021, awarded by the European Patent Office. They continue to work toward contributing to their ultimate goal of a sustainable, circular economy.

DISCLAIMER

The authors of the publications have used publicly available information only and no private information was handed to them by the innovators or third parties.

SOURCES

The IP & I team at EIT InnoEnergy specialises in combining public sources and state of the art research tools, to provide our innovative member companies with business intelligence. In this case the following sources were used:

https://www.epo.org/news-events/events/european-inventor/finalists/2021/gurtler.html

https://www.mpg.de/16887097/co2-recycling-european-inventor-award 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Leitner

https://www.covestro.com/en/utech2018/speakers/dr-christoph-guertler

http://plasticinfo.blogspot.com/2012/11/importance-of-plastics-in-our-daily-life.html

https://youtu.be/L3gOtoQEyx

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