Year of selection 2010
Institution Imperial College London
Country United Kingdom
There was a time when men wanted to turn lead into gold. Today, as the reduction of our CO2 emissions is an absolute necessity, the supreme quest of alchemy could be turning CO2 into plastics. And Dr. Michael Kember could be the 21st century alchemist. While societies strive to reduce their CO2 emissions, new strategies are being developed to capture waste CO2 instead of releasing it to the atmosphere. One strategy it is to store the CO2 underground. However, this procedure is costly and long-term storage is risky. Working in sustainable chemistry, Dr. Kember suggests an alternative option: using waste CO2 to make plastics, which are currently manufactured from fossil fuels. He has developed a new, robust class of catalysts* which could make the development of plastics from low pressure waste CO2 streams a possibility: CO2 would then turn from a polluting component to a raw material to manufacture part of the plastics our society needs.
My research focuses on: The development of new catalysts for the formation of polycarbonates from carbon dioxide and epoxides. This copolymerisation process is potentially and attractive form of Carbon Capture and Usage (CCU), and could be used to create polymers with increased renewable content. In particular, my research is focused on development of catalysts active under mild conditions (e.g. 1 bar CO2 pressure) using cheap, abundant metals (e.g. magnesium). We are investigating the feasibility of these catalysts with different potential CO2 sources (e.g. fermentation, power etc).
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