Cornell Spin Out Catalyzes CO2-Based Plastic Wrap


Novomer, Inc. (Novomer) is a Cornell University spin out that makes green plastics, polymers and other chemicals from carbon dioxide and other renewable raw materials. 

Novomer uses catalysis systems invented by Cornell professor Geoffrey Coates, and patented by the university, to make various polymers.  One of the company’s primary products is polypropylene carbonate (PPC), known as NB-180, which consists of 50% fossil fuels and 50% carbon dioxide.

Through Coates’s chemical catalysis, epoxides (fossil fuel materials) can be reacted with carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide at low temperatures and pressures to produce high performance polymers that provide better barriers for storing food and decompose into environmentally benign products, according to the company’s web site.

U.S. Patent No. 6,133,402 (‘402 Patent) relates to zinc- and other metal-based catalysts for co-polymerization of alkylene oxides and carbon dioxide.  U.S. Patent No. 7,304,172 (‘172 Patent) is directed to cobalt catalysts, various co-catalysts and reversible chain transfer agents for use with cobalt catalysts for co-polymerization of propylene oxide and carbon dioxide. 

The ‘172 Patent claims a few different catalysts, including a cobalt catalyst having the following general structure:


Novomer also owns International Patent Application Pub. No. WO 2009/148889 (‘889 Application), which published last month and is directed to methods of controlling the molecular weight distribution of polymers made by addition polymerization reactions.  The ‘889 Application incorporates by reference the ‘402 and ‘172 Patents and some of Coates’s scientific publications.

Novomer recently partnered with Kodak to build a pilot production facility to make plastic wraps and coatings for testing by prospective customers.  According to this Greentech Media story, because of the huge amounts of oil that go into plastics manufacturing, if Novomer’s process were to go universal U.S. fuel consumption could drop by 5%.

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Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.