Life Cycle Assessment as an eco-design tool for a CO2 capture membrane

Main Presenter:    Carolina Villa González 

Co-Authors:   Jose Jorge Espí Gallart                                               

The SunCoChem research project addresses the environmental challenges associated with the production of oxochemicals, which are widely used in various industrial applications. The conventional method of hydroformylation, reliant on petroleum-derived materials, contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. To mitigate this impact, the project focuses on developing a self-sustaining tandem photoelectrocatalytic reactor that utilizes renewable energy sources, such as CO2, H2O, and solar energy, to manufacture oxo-products. The ultimate goal is to provide a sustainable alternative to traditional oxo-chemical production methods.
A key aspect of the project is the implementation of eco-design principles for each component of the tandem photoelectrocatalytic reactor. This involves the development of new materials, including a CO2 capture membrane and synthesized ionic liquids, with the aim of minimizing the overall environmental footprint. The project integrates Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) as a decision-making tool, following ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards, to guide the redesign of membrane components and ensure optimal environmental performance.
The LCA methodology encompasses a comprehensive analysis from cradle to gate, utilizing data from laboratory experiments and the Ecoinvent 3.9.1 database. Simapro Developer software version 9.4 facilitates the evaluation process, aligning with Environmental Footprint 3.1 categories. The selected functional units for analysis include 1 kg of ionic liquid and specific amounts of membrane precursors, such as Modified polysulfone and Polyionic liquids. The analysis extends to the production process, with 1 m2 of membrane serving as the functional unit.
The results and discussion section focuses on the carbon footprint of membrane components, specifically ionic liquids, and membrane precursors. Noteworthy findings include BMIM Succ as the ionic liquid with the lowest impact and improved membrane performance. Additionally, modified polysulfone exhibits a lower environmental impact compared to polyionic liquids. Further optimization of the membrane casting process and re led to a reduction in the membrane’s environmental impact by 4 kg of CO2 eq.
The study underscores the importance of conscious design choices in achieving sustainability goals. The conclusions highlight specific improvements made in each component and their collective contribution to a greener and more efficient oxo-chemical production process. The integration of LCA as an eco-design tool ensures that decisions in the experimental phase are informed by a holistic understanding of environmental repercussions, emphasizing the significance of a sustainable approach in the European chemical industry.

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