October 09, 2015
Catalysts for cleaner cement production

Sustainable chemistry has a major role in building our future Smart Cities, ensuring our technologies are as clean as possible and providing the basis for 'green' living.

SusChem has provided much input on chemistry's contribution to energy efficiency in buildings and their contribution to Smart Cities initiatives including the SusChem report "Innovative chemistry for Energy efficiency of buildings in smart cities" and our visionary flagship project the Smart Energy Home.

Another clear example of chemistry's contribution to cleaner construction is provided by Clariant

Cement production generates considerable harmful emissions including fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and ammonia, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulfur oxides. Cement is the main component of concrete, the most widely used construction material in the world.

Using a combined catalytic process the emissions from cement production can be reduced by 90% or more. In a first stage nitrogen oxides and ammonia in the cement process flue gas react on a catalytic layer, where they bind to iron active centres. The molecules interact with each other forming water and harmless nitrogen.

In the next stage remaining organic contaminants and carbon monoxide are eliminated by catalytic oxidation in an innovative ceramic honeycomb catalyst with an activated zeolite-coated surface. The zeolite matrix provides durable protection against dust, sulfur oxides, and moisture which can result in fast catalyst deactivation. This key innovation enables the catalyst to survive under the harsh conditions of the process for a considerable time.

Using the two-stage process toxic pollutants are almost completely purified with pollutant emissions reduced by 90% and more meaning that required emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants can be easily met by cement plants. 

Watch the video  to find out more about this innovative process.

September 16, 2015
EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK 2015 celebrations begin

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK 2015 activities were launched on 16 September at an event at the European Parliament in Brussels. Currently, more than 1600 local governments from 42 countries have registered their participation online and are carrying out activities celebrating this year’s theme of multimodality under the motto ‘Choose. Change. Combine’.

The week runs from 16 to 22 September every year and sees events taking place across Europe and globally. This year the aim is to encourage people to think about the range of transport options available, to choose the right mode when travelling, and invite people to combine ways of getting around.

Supported by the European Commission’s directorates for Energy and Transport, EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK seeks to encourage European local authorities to introduce and promote sustainable transport measures and thus create a more sustainable transport strategy for Europe.

Sustainable use of chemistry can offer break-through technology applications which can lead to smart solutions and a healthier life for European citizens. Lightweight design and high-performance materials for electric vehicles, synthetic fuels made from renewable (biomass) sources and tyres with lower rolling resistance can reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, minise waste during the manufacturing process and enhance the safety of the vehicles.

In its recent Strategic Innovation and Research AgendaSusChem, has a dedicated chapter on Smart, Green and Integrated Transport which covers many components that are vital to achieving more sustainable mobility.

Read more about the mobility solutions on http://www.smart-cities-europe.eu/MobilitySolutions.

September 22, 2014
Molten metal batteries to store energy from renewable energy source

A team of engineers in the United States, led by Professor Sadoway of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have invented a new type of battery that might be effective in storing energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, at a scale that can be used to power the energy needs of a nation.

Although the spatial footprint of batteries was small, until now the cost of scaling up battery production for grid-level use was too high.  The ability to store energy on an electric grid at a reasonable production cost represents a major step-forward for renewable energy storage efforts.

The BBC reports that “this latest attempt at a scalable solution for storing electricity is set for commercial demonstrations within a year and has been greeted with enthusiasm by engineers in the UK.”

The new battery will be tested with sun energy and wind energy at two sites, in Cape Cod in Massachusetts and in Hawaii respectively.

September 02, 2014
Solar cell textiles are on their way

As we are having upon us more and more electronics a self-generating source of energy would also be highly helpful. But what if we were wearing it?

As futuristic as it may still sound, solar cell textiles could offer exactly that: clothes that can generate energy to power the different gadgets we may be using. Chinese scientists have created such a textile that can be woven into regular clothes.

Huisheng Peng at Fudan University in Shanghai and his team designed the textile as a mix of interwoven metal wires coated with an active polymer (to absorb the sunlight), titanium dioxide nanotubes (to conduct the electrons) and another active polymer (to conduct the holes). Each side of the textile is coated with transparent, conductive sheets of carbon nanotubes, which complete the circuit. It can be bent for more than 200 times until starting to lose efficiency.

Nonetheless, more time has to be spent with researching how to increase energy-conversation efficiency, since the current size of the textile is very small.

August 31, 2014
EU’s Graphene Flagship Project Sees Influx of New Partners

With the addition of 66 new partners, the Graphene Flagship, which is one of the largest-ever European research initiatives, doubled in size. This was the result of a €9 million competitive call which attracted 218 proposals from 738 organisations in 37 countries. There is growing enthusiasm in Europe about the possibilities that Graphene can provide for citizens. Graphene is a next generation material with limitless potential applications in various sectors such as energy, health, mobility and housing and many more.

In a recent EU communication, Vice-President Neelie Kroes said "this ‘wonder material’ has the potential to dramatically improve our lives: it stimulates new medical technologies, such as artificial retinas, and more sustainable transport with light and ultra-efficient batteries. The more we can unlock the potential of graphene, the better!”

With this expansion, six new countries (Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Israel) will be represented in the Flagship expanding the Pan-European and international outreach of the initiative. Italy and Germany have the highest number of partners organisations (23 each), followed by Spain (18), UK (17) and France (13). In total the Graphene Flagship will now reach approximately 140 organisations from 23 countries.

The mixt composition achieved by the consortium, as well as the tight competition are indicators of the growing interest in graphene coming from both research and economic actors.

A part of the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships, the Graphene Flagship is a European investment of €1 billion unfolding over the next 10 years.

August 20, 2014
Rubber bands could become the next wearable sensors thanks to graphene

The AMBER research team in Dublin and colleagues from the University in Surrey have designed a new application for rubber bands. Enriched with graphene, they could be turned into sensors with different potential utilities.

By definition, rubber bands are flexible and stretchable items. They can thus be worn on or near the body, or embedded in different other objects where their properties are needed. Adding a thin layer of graphene to rubber bands transforms them into electrically conductive items that can be used as sensors with a number of uses in various sectors. In healthcare, for example, they could be used for monitoring body motion or sleep apnea. In the automotive industry, they could contribute to the development of sensitive airbags. 

This way of bringing the conductive properties of graphene close to or into the objects to be monitored is highly effective, while it is both easy to implement and relatively cheap due to the basic material – rubber.

“By implanting graphene into rubber, a flexible natural material, we are able to completely change its properties to make it electrically conductive, to develop a completely new type of sensor. Because rubber is available widely and cheaply, this unique discovery will open up major possibilities in sensor manufacturing worldwide,” said Professor Jonathan Coleman, leader of the researchers’ team.

July 31, 2014
Harmful indoor air pollution may be reduced by a cloth-like device

Swedish researchers have invented a “surface emissions trap,” a device that can reduce indoor air pollution caused by building materials, such as glues or plasticisers in PVC flooring. These materials are prone to produce health-threatening volatile organic compounds (VOCs) especially in damp buildings, damaged by moisture. The effects on human health of the VOCs range from lung irritation to even cancer.

Laboratory tests found that the new device can reduce total VOCs by 97%. Its efficiency was not affected either by room temperature, or moisture levels, and would last for at least 10 years of use. Installed in a school in Sweden on 510-m2 of laminated flooring, the device reduced airborne 2-ethyl-1-hexanol from 6-7 μg/m3 to 2 μg/m3 in two months and kept it at this level also after 13 months. The school’s building dates from the 1970s and is affected by dampness.

The emissions “trap” is like a cloth, made by layers of different materials. There is a central adsorption layer and a breathable polymer sheet, which are then protected top and bottom by a layer of polyester fabric. The cloth is placed directly on the affected surfaces and can be covered by a finishing, such as laminated flooring, for example.

July 25, 2014
More efficient solar cells that can keep themselves cool

Solar energy is the future. Yet, maintaining solar cells is a costly thing primarily because of the natural phenomenon associated with this type of energy: high temperatures. Solar cells can reach more than 55 degrees Celsius under regular usage and this affects their efficiency and life-expectancy. At the moment, cooling systems involve ventilation or coolants, but these interfere with the need to optimize exposure to the sun and add to the price of energy.

A team of physicists from Stanford University answered this technological need associated with solar panels by adding a specially patterned layer of silica glass to the surface of solar cells. The glass contains pyramid- and cone-shaped structures that simply redirect the heat in the atmosphere.

"Our new approach can lower the operating temperature of solar cells passively, improving energy conversion efficiency significantly and increasing the life expectancy of solar cells," explained Linxiao Zhu, one of physicists involved in this research.

July 17, 2014
Building walls out of paper

Anthony Crabbe from Nottingham Trent University’s School of Art and Design has been looking for alternatives to traditional paper recycling process, which involves the use of water. His investigations have led him to the discovery a more environment-friendly paper recycling process, which recycles paper in its dry state.

This new dry state paper recycling involves the use of shredded paper to create a new composite which is as strong as medium density fibreboard (MDF). The material is obtained by combining the paper with a sodium silicate gluing agent, in a proportion of 80/20, after which the obtained mix is compressed at high pressures (90C) and molded into a ribbed pattern. The resulting paper board can be used, for example, for making partition walls in buildings or different objects much in the same way as with chipboard. It can bear different finishings, such as varnish- or veneer-based.

The new way of recycling paper could become widespread as soon as businesses adopt it and put the new composite material into use.

July 17, 2014
Almost glare-free glass obtained using nanoparticles

Researchers at the Institute for Photonic Sciences in Barcelona (ICFO) have found a way of producing almost fully glare-free glass.  The new material’s applications are expected to soon be on the smartphone market.

The enhanced glass was created by using acid and copper nanoparticles to add texture at micro and nano scales. Led by Professor Valerio Pruneri, the team first laid the micro level texture, which fights off glare, and then applied an anti-reflection nanoscale surface on top. The glass that resulted has proved to be significantly more glare-proof than currently existing ones. Also, it has higher water repelling properties.

A display glass that almost doesn’t glare in bright light and is also almost water-proof might revolutionize the smartphones and smart gadgets’ market. However, the durability of the glass is still in testing phase, after which the new technology might be scaled.

The research was conducted together with Corning, the company behind Gorilla Glass. Funding for this research was also provided by Corning.  

June 05, 2014
Electronics that melt away

Imagine tossing your old phone in the toilet, watching it dissolve and then flushing it down, instead of having it wind up in a landfill. Scientists are working on electronic devices that can be triggered to disappear when they are no longer needed.

The electronics, made with special "transient materials," could have far-ranging possibilities. Dissolvable electronics could be used in medicine for localizing treatment and delivering vaccines inside the body. They also could eliminate extra surgeries to remove temporarily implanted devices.The military could design information-gathering gadgets that could complete their mission and dissolve
without leaving a trace. Credit cards and passports could be made to dissolve if they are lost or stolen.

May 21, 2014
New plastics "bleed" and heal like human skin

Unlike ordinary plastics, the new plastics could bleed when it's scratched or cut and then heals itself when it's exposed to light. As Popular Science notes, self-healing plastics aren't something entirely new, but the "bleeding" (achieved using small molecular links or "bridges" that break when the plastic is scratched) is, as is the fact that this plastic can heal itself over and over again in the same spot. It is also more environmentally-friendly as it's made from water-based copolymers. More work is still to do to use these plastics in actual products, but there is enourmous potential, including everything from self-healing car fenders to aircraft applications that could warn of problems before they get too severe.

May 14, 2014
Light-sensitive buildings to reduce air pollution

The European Union (EU)-funded research project LIGHT2CAT is investigating one technology which could help combat air pollution more effectively than previously possible. The technology involves making buildings and other built structures light-sensitive, mimicking the processes of plants.

The basic idea is to mix titanium dioxide (TiO2) into the concrete used. TiO2 is a semiconductor which acts as a photocatalyst. “It is similar to the chlorophyll in plants,” explains LIGHT2CAT’s Project Coordinator, Dr Andrea Folli, of the Concrete Centre of the Danish Technological Institute. “TiO2 harvests sunlight, specifically the ultraviolet component. Once it is activated by light, TiO2 catalyses reactions involving atmospheric oxygen and water resulting in the degradation of hazardous chemicals that come into contact with it. So, for example, nitrogen oxides, a hazardous component in vehicle emissions, are oxidised into harmless nitrates just like those commonly found in water or soil,” explains Dr Folli.

April 07, 2014
16th European Forum on Eco-Innovation: Wasted potential! Towards Circular Economy in Cities

Organised by the European Commission’s DG Environment, the biannual European Forum on Eco-innovation brings together around 200 specialists from the worlds of research, industry, policy, finance, civil society and business. Participants meet to present the latest developments in their fields and engage in discussions on future developments.

The 16th European Forum on Eco-Innovation will be held in Hannover, Germany, on 7th and 8th April 2014. The Forum will examine the enabling factors and the challenges of a circular economy model in an urban context. These will be presented through the lens of the stakeholders: city authorities, citizens and businesses. The event will also identify and showcase eco-innovations that can facilitate the shift to a circular economy and support cities in meeting the new targets for municipal waste treatment. For registration, please click here.

Circular economy is an economic model that finds ways to reuse products and components and restore their material and energy inputs. It is based on an industrial system replacing the ‘end-of-life’ concept with restoration and it aims to the elimination of waste by making feasible for manufacturers to collect, re-manufacture and once more distribute their products, thus generating a circular system.

Sustainable chemistry and engineering innovations provide the fundamentals of circular economy in urban realities (new materials, new production systems, sustainable water management…): developing new standards to boost innovation, supporting demonstration projects to bring smart and ambitious operational technologies to markets and mobilising financial instruments for SMEs are among the topics to be discussed at the 16th European Forum on Eco-Innovation.

November 07, 2013
Launch Event: EIP Smart Cities and Communities, 26 November 2013 in Brussels

The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Smart cities and communities has announced its launch Event: Leading the way in making Europe's cities smarter, 26 November 2013 in Brussels

The aim of this conference is to share the actions outlined in the "Strategic Implementation Plan" of the Smart cities and communities Partnership and to discuss how to they can be put into practice. Invited speakers include city leaders, CEOs, civic society leaders and three European commissioners.

For more information:

Website of the EIP in Smart cities and communities: http://ec.europa.eu/eip/smartcities

>> Registration

Strategic Implementation Plan of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart cities and communities:

Contact email of EIP in smart cities and communities: EC-smartcities@ec.europa.eu

About the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities (EU Communication)

The European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities combines Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), energy management and transport management to come up with innovative solutions to the major environmental, societal and health challenges facing European cities today.

September 16, 2013
Smart coating for no-blinds windows

An innovative spray-on coating for the next generation of smart windows could actually stop heat and light from passing through without the use of shades. It could also save us billions of euros a year in energy costs. Consumers would be able to choose the type of coated windows, adjusting them to their needs in terms of the type of light these would be blocking.

July 08, 2013
New hydrogen-powered vehicles cleaner than electric vehicles

Chemical companies are making progress towards ensuring our future cars will be as gentle on the environment as possible. A hydrogen-making process would purportedly cut carbon dioxide emissions in half, making fuel-cell vehicles generally cleaner than electric vehicles.

Until now, the holy grail has been hydrogen produced without introducing oxygen, as that would mean avoiding carbon dioxide emissions. The problem is, that's meant cranking up the operating temperature, which means you're using more energy, which means you're looking at some carbon dioxide emissions. In this new system, though, heat is recycled more efficiently so that the temperature doesn't have to be raised quite so high. Additionally, some new catalysts will make the process more cost-efficient.