The OptiNanoPro project resulted in the development of several new products and technologies. They are all related to one or multiple global environmental topics, such as biobased materials, renewable energy production, waste reduction, and energy savings. But it’s not easy being green. Environmental issues are complex problems to solve: there are often many interrelating factors involved and prioritizing one issue may mean neglecting others. But regardless of the complexity, decisions must be made if we want to move forward.
Lifecycle assessments or LCAs can help alleviate some of these challenges and help in decision making by quantifying and evaluating a large number of global environmental impact categories ranging from climate change to damage to human health, damage to ecosystems and resource depletion. LCAs take into account the entire lifecycle of a product: from production to use and end-of-life. And you can also use them to evaluate the economic and social sustainability of products throughout their lifecycle. The LCA approach was applied for evaluating the environmental and economic sustainability of the OptiNanoPro products.
The OptiNanoPro pouches, jars and tubes offer novel alternatives to established, fossil-based solutions. The pouches have a nano-based barrier layer, either in combination with biobased ingredients or as a replacement of the conventional EVOH barrier. The jars combine biobased ingredients with improved barrier properties. The tubes add easy-emptying properties, helping us get to that last bit of toothpaste instead of wasting it. The pouch with EVOH substitution shows promising results in terms of environmental and economic impacts. The biobased pouch and the novel jars need further research in order to improve their competitiveness. The easy-emptying tube is already more environmentally friendly and economically competitive than the reference tube when considering its lifecycle cost, mainly thanks to its superior easy-emptying properties.
When evaluating the OptiNanoPro self-cleaning layers for OPV panels, there are several advantages and disadvantages that have to be considered. On the one hand, the self-cleaning properties make the panels less susceptible to fouling and degradation in the electrical yield due to dirt collecting on the surface of the panels. On the other hand, the additional layer also has its own production impacts and costs which are added to those of the OPV panel. The LCA results show that the self-cleaning layer leads to lifecycle improvements in terms of climate change, damage to ecosystems, damage to human health and resource depletion if the layer increases the average electrical yield of the panels by more than 0.5%. The cost of the produced power is improved if the average energy yield is increased by more than 13%.
The advanced lightweight OptiNanoPro door panels studied in our LCA have a 15% lower weight than conventional door panels. This improves the fuel efficiency of the vehicle and reduces break and road wear. But the panels also have a higher production impact and cost than conventional ones. Looking at the entire lifecycle of the panels, it can be concluded that they are not only more than 10% more environmentally friendly in the considered impact categories, but they are also 4% cheaper when you take into account the reduced fuel use.