A Cradle-to-Grave Life Cycle Assessment of a Graphene-based Supercapacitor

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Poster Number:  14 

Main Presenter:    Gianmarco Gottardo 

Co-Authors:   Giovanni Dotelli     Simone Lacioppa      Nicolas Bertoldo                                    

Recent energy crises are mainly connected to the present geopolitical panorama, as well as to depletion of non-renewable resources and environmental degradation, posing the global energy supply chain under pressure. According to some observers, this calls for energy independence based on sustainable alternatives such as renewable energy sources: they play a key role into the journey towards net zero carbon emissions, helping to reduce the demand for fossil fuel-based options. But, as the world derives an increasing amount of its energy from these renewable sources, there is a growing need for technologies that can capture and store it. A clear example are Supercapacitors (SCs), object of the present study.

In this document, the entire lifespan of a Graphene Cylindrical Supercapacitor is analysed through the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, with the aim of laying first foundations in the Environmental Product Declaration achievement of the analysed product, thus referring to ad hoc standards and norms. For this reason, the study assesses the entire life of the product according to suggested main stages, namely manufacturing, distribution, usage, and end-of-life, thus resulting in a cradle-to-grave analysis. Numerical calculations and method strongly rely on the adopted software for Life Cycle Assessments, SimaPro®️.
In addition, end-of-life alternatives – namely recycling and incineration – are evaluated to identify potential benefits of such options. Then, based on the manufacturing company products portfolio, a comparative assessment is carried out to underline critical steps and design choices of two different devices.
The complex production route of precursor materials is traced for the manufacturing stage, resulting as the main contribution to total impacts along with end-of-life activities. Waste treatment choices are said to have possible relevance in improving environmental performances if based on recycling and reuse. Potential hotspots are identified in the active material of the device, and a sensitivity analysis is carried out to underline critical points, to evaluate chosen methods, and to investigate several country energy mixes, where decarbonization of energy production is found to play a paramount role. Finally, limitations of the study, along with recommendations, are given for future improvements.

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