Advanced materials to support EU green transition – POLITICO

What if we told you that chemistry can help you save on your energy bill? Or that chemistry creates solutions for 100% recyclable products? Or that it can even help preserve wild fish in the oceans?

Advanced chemistry-enabled materials fuel progress and provide solutions that both improve our daily lives and advance the EU Green Deal.

The chemical industry provides the building blocks for most other European industries, which means that its commitment to the European Green Deal is particularly important. But unlike some other sectors, the chemical industry must undergo a “double twin” transition. What does it mean? The « double twin » transition requires going climate neutral; fully circular; being based on safe and sustainable chemicals; and digitized.

The transformation of European industry is a colossal undertaking, in which the European regulations of the four dimensions of the transition arrive at the same time. With massive changes on the horizon, the industry needs certainty that the rules won’t change mid-game and that Europe will remain an attractive destination for investment – especially now, with soaring oil prices. energy and the impending economic recession.

The European Commission is leading the development of a “transition pathway” for the chemical industry. The transition path will serve as a guide or compass, as it should outline favorable conditions and obstacles that need to be overcome. It should also provide the industry with clear timelines with sequenced changes to help the industry transform while remaining competitive.

We are coming to a decisive moment for the European chemical industry. However, it is an industry that has always been driven by innovation, a passion for new technologies and an entrepreneurial spirit. Perhaps that is why the industry remains optimistic that Europe can overcome even the most difficult obstacles and continue to invest in producing solutions on European soil that can help us achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal. An example? Solutions such as advanced materials, many of which are essential to creating a circular and climate-neutral European economy by 2050.

Let’s talk about solutions with advanced materials

Today, the chemical industry applies its ingenuity to develop advanced materials that are smart, durable and circular in design.

Some incredible advanced materials have already left the research and development pipeline on the way to the « double-twin » transition, semiconductors for solar panels, carbon fiber reinforced composites for wind turbine blades, better batteries and lightweight materials for transportation, to better insulation and coatings, to name a few.

We’re here to share exciting progress, but also to start the conversation on the road ahead. Because scaling these innovations into our homes, businesses and critical infrastructure across 27 member countries is a huge undertaking. And the clock to 2050 keeps ticking.

Here are some innovation ideas to start the conversation.

Energy saving solutions

Our offices and homes have a big impact on our carbon footprint. EU buildings are now responsible for 40% of Europe’s energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions1. Conventional materials science alone cannot solve this problem. But innovative chemistry can and is working on new advanced materials that can help us reduce the environmental footprint of our buildings.

Take a look at this window. Chemical engineers have endowed it with special properties to avoid the “greenhouse” effect. Thanks to the wonders of chemistry, glass can change color and opacity in response to temperature demands in buildings, allowing for better climate control.

Then there are these next generation solar panels. They are treated with a newly formulated coating that gets dirty less quickly from dust and other dirt, making them much easier to clean on roofs. The result is better performing panels that generate more solar power for our energy-hungry homes. Silicone solutions engineered with chemistry also make it much easier to repair and maintain solar panels, extending their life under the sun and sending less waste to landfill.

All of these solutions are not only good for the environment and Europe’s carbon footprint. They create efficiencies that help lower energy bills, make our spaces more comfortable and livable, and are key to increasing Europe’s strategic energy independence.

Self-Healing Solutions

Your cell phone case is cracking. Now imagine plastic repairing itself. It’s not science fiction, it’s chemistry2. Self-healing polymers are designed to respond to stimuli such as cracks, pressure or temperature in smart materials.

And this solution is already ready to be marketed for concrete. A material with a huge impact on human history, creating the literal basis of our built environment. But concrete has a heavy carbon footprint throughout its life and can crack under pressure and time.

Chemists have catalyzed a brilliant solution. When a crack forms, it triggers bacteria to produce limescale which fills in the gaps, improving the life of concrete constructions by around 40%. This means that less concrete has to be produced for repairs and maintenance. For those of us in Brussels, imagine fewer tunnel closures and traffic jams due to aging concrete.

Beyond concrete, self-healing solutions are being developed for paints, varnishes, coatings and more. Altogether, these innovations mean less cost to consumers, less waste sent to landfills, and less energy is used to produce and transport new materials for repairs. But a supportive policy is still needed to advance these innovations. We have launched a chemistry network to accelerate progress on this front as well.

Solutions for our “blue gold”

Water is a precious resource that we need, in a warming world, to carry more water safely over longer distances. Thanks to chemistry, we now have innovative solutions with advanced materials to get the job done.

Inspired by nature, chemists have found an ingenious way to extend the life of pipes that carry water for up to 20 years with little or no maintenance. The solution comes from a plant that grows in arid regions of the world. In the form of a high-performance powder, it coats pipes with long-lasting protection.

Now take a look at this ultrafiltration membrane. This is a game changer for wastewater cleaning. Designed with chemistry, it is strong and resistant. This means we can safely, quickly and efficiently return water to the environment to help quench the planet’s thirst.

Be part of the solution – let’s make the transition together

Chemical innovation with advanced materials catalyzes the EU Green Deal and continues Europe’s proud heritage as a continent of invention where huge breakthroughs for humanity can emerge.

But realizing this dream requires extending innovation from the lab bench to European homes, businesses and critical infrastructure. European industry is facing the biggest transition in its history, and the chemical industry transition journey is an opportunity to help guide the chemical industry on the way forward and ensure that the ‘Europe will continue to remain an attractive location for long-term investment. Chemicals are the basis of almost every industry and product. A thriving European chemicals industry is an absolute prerequisite for the success of the European Green Deal.

Join Future Chemistry Network, with policymakers, scientists, civil society and all sectors, to contribute to the conversation.

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