PhD student Jing Huo and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Eric Bradford, both working in the group of Prof. Stefanie Hellweg, Core PI at ETH Zurich, summarized their NCCR Catalysis projects in short videos. Their work addresses evaluation of the environmental sustainability of a broad range of chemical products and processes, including catalysts, at an early design stage.
The goal of Jing's work is to inform the chemical industry and policymakers about which strategies to pursue in transitioning to renewable feedstocks. Therefore, she aims to provide a holistic comparison of environmental benefits and trade-offs of chemicals produced from different feedstocks and pathways under different scenarios. The work focuses on CO2 and biomass as chemical feedstocks, including their future regional supply-demand balance and environmental impacts based on projected sourcing mechanisms. A case study will address the optimization potential of upstream supply chain of the chemical manufacturing sites in Europe, with the aim of minimizing total environmental impacts from feedstock sourcing, transportation, and conversion.
Eric's work focuses on developing a pre-life cycle assessment (LCA) framework for evaluating new chemicals. Currently, life-cycle inventories are lacking for most chemicals, which hampers assessments of their environmental impact. While over 100 million chemicals are registered, LCAs cannot be carried out for most of them because of insufficient data. This is why model-based estimations are needed to fill data gaps during early design stages of molecule and process. Eric makes use of state-of-the-art machine learning techniques to address data deficiencies and to improve the quality of LCAs for both basic and fine chemicals of different levels of complexity in the molecular structure. The tool's aim is to complement existing public and industry LCA databases of chemicals, particularly by screening LCA results of complex chemicals that are otherwise not available, and to be used in design evaluation of chemical molecules and processes for the development of greener chemicals and processes.
Well done, Jing and Eric!