Researchers at Swansea University have pioneered a technique to produce a molecule used to make plastics from converted carbon dioxide (CO2).

The discovery by a team from the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at the university is a major breakthrough, which could contribute to  ‘offsetting global carbon emissions’.

“Carbon dioxide is responsible for much of the damage caused to our environment. Considerable research focuses on capturing and storing harmful carbon dioxide emissions. But an alternative to expensive long-term storage is to use the captured CO2 as a resource to make useful materials,” said Dr Enrico Andreoli heads the CO2 utilisation group at ESRI. “That’s why at Swansea we have converted waste carbon dioxide into a molecule called ethylene. Ethylene is one of the most widely used molecules in the chemical industry and is the starting material in the manufacture of detergents, synthetic lubricants, and the vast majority of plastics like polyethylene, polystyrene, and polyvinyl chloride essential to modern society.”

The team is now looking for industrial partners to commercialise the innovation.