3M Expands Decarbonization and Renewable Fuels R&D


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3M is expanding research and development into emerging technologies focused on decarbonization and renewable fuels. Through cross-functional global teams, 3M Corporate Research and 3M Ventures, the company’s corporate venturing arm, 3M is investing in and developing materials for green hydrogen and low-carbon intensity energy separations.

3M developing solutions to lower carbon emissions

3M is applying materials science that could make the production of green hydrogen more cost-effective and efficient. Green hydrogen is a sustainable fuel source that is produced with renewable energy and does not release operational carbon emissions. This form of hydrogen could offer a solution for sectors that are hard to decarbonize, such as steel and long-haul transport. Leveraging support from the US Department of Energy (DOE), 3M is developing a catalyst technology used in water electrolysis, which is the primary means of green hydrogen production.

  • The 3M Nanostructured Supported Iridium Catalyst Powder reduces the amount of iridium, a rare precious metal, that is required to meet the stringent efficiency and lifetime requirements of water electrolyzers.
  • The catalyst technology can result in substantial cost savings for customers, reducing another barrier to the adoption and expansion of green hydrogen production.
  • Given that more than 95% of current hydrogen production is fossil-fuel based, 3M anticipates a substantial opportunity to address the needs of customers in the field of green hydrogen, a $450 million market in 2021 that is expected to grow to $4.3 billion by 2026.

3M is also using its expertise in membrane separation technologies to explore new applications in low-carbon intensity energy separations. While membrane separations are established technologies in various sectors—many of which 3M has advanced—the company believes new solutions can improve and scale up renewable fuel production, battery recycling, and decarbonization technologies like carbon capture.

This climate technology research would, when fully commercialized, help expand 3M’s portfolio of climate solutions, which includes a major focus on automotive electrification, and builds on external investments by 3M Ventures, which include ongoing support of the TPG Rise Climate fund.

3M Climate Innovations

These innovations represent a portion of 3M’s broader cross-industry climate portfolio, which has the potential to deliver scalable impact in some of the most critical industries, including manufacturing, transportation, construction, and retail. In addition to the green hydrogen catalyst technology, solutions include:

  • 3M Passive Radiative Cooling Film: This multi-layer film enables 24/7 passive thermal management and 10-20% energy savings when deployed on SkyCool Systems panels and integrated with a building’s HVAC or refrigeration system.
  • 3M Sun Control Window Film Prestige Series: By rejecting up to 97% of the sun’s infrared light and 60% of the heat coming through a window, this film offers energy savings and solar protection while maintaining natural light and interior aesthetics.
  • 3M Natural Pozzolans: This technology can be used as a partial cement replacement to help lower the carbon dioxide emissions of concrete. For every ton of natural pozzolans used to displace concrete, CO2 emissions can be reduced by an estimated 0.75 tons.
  • Scotch Cushion Lock Protective Wrap: To help make shipping sustainable, this wrap is made from 100% recycled paper and is curbside recyclable after use. It can expand to fill a box using up to 60% less material than plastic bubble (based on filling a 1-cubic foot box vs. 3/16″ plastic bubble).
  • 3M Cool Roofing Granules: When used in shingles to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof, this product can assist in saving energy and money—and can help reduce the effects of urban heating.
  • 3M Smog-reducing Granules: Roofing shingles with this embedded technology can help reduce smog pollutants and improve urban air quality.
  • 3M Thinsulate 100% Recycled Featherless Insulation: Made from 100% post-consumer recycled content, this material is as lightweight as natural down, and it still performs when wet.
  • 3M Boron Nitride Cooling Fillers: Through formulation into many different thermal management solutions, this technology helps manufacturers facilitate crucial heat removal in the battery packs, motors, electronics, and antennas of electric vehicles. 



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