Safe- and Sustainable-by-Design of Advanced Materials

The production of state-of-the-art batteries, photovoltaic or wind power systems requires many raw materials, chemicals, materials and components, which often have to be imported into the EU and can also lead to potential environmental risks. The greatest supply risk is for so-called "critical raw materials", which are used in relatively small quantities for electronic components (semiconductors, generators, etc.) or batteries, for example, but for which there is great dependence on imports. Other raw materials, such as crude oil and natural gas for plastics or sand and cement for concrete foundations, are consumed in relatively large quantities, for which the security of supply may still change depending on the geopolitical situation. In order to become less dependent on imports and to optimize so-called "gray energy" through reuse and recycling, a functioning circular economy is indispensable. Supply risks can thus be delayed by extending the service life and minimized by recycling within the EU. Furthermore, the production, use and disposal of materials leads to environmental impact, as processes along the value chain cause gaseous, aqueous or (nano)particulate emissions. In addition to gases that are harmful to the climate and health, in particular so-called advanced materials (i.e.: nanomaterials, composite materials, bio-based materials, etc.), which are increasingly used for innovative products, can be unintentionally released along the life cycle and thus lead to unforeseen environmental risks. Concepts for "safe- and sustainable-by-design" (SSbD) therefore aim to consider all possible environmental impacts in terms of the "EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability" already during the design phase in order to develop sustainable chemicals, materials and products.

The ABF research area named “Quality and Risk assessment of Advanced materials for a functioning Circular Economy (QRACE)“ therefore applies this SSbD principle in various research projects and publications. By means of laboratory approaches, literature research, material flow, criticality and life cycle analyses as well as stakeholder dialogues, the potential environmental impacts of advanced materials are identified and, if possible, quantitatively assessed at the end.

Contact and coordination: Florian Part