What if we told you chemistry can help you save on your energy bill? Or that chemistry is creating solutions for 100 percent recyclable products? Or that it can even help preserve wild fish in oceans?
Advanced materials enabled by chemistry are powering progress and delivering solutions that both enhance our everyday 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 this mean? The “double twin” transition requires going climate neutral; fully circular; being based on safe and sustainable chemicals; and digitalized.
The transformation of the European industry is a huge undertaking, and one in which the EU regulations of the transition’s four dimensions are coming at the same time. With massive changes on the horizon, the industry needs certainty that the rules will not change mid-game and that Europe will remain an attractive destination for investments – especially now, with soaring energy prices and looming economic recession.
The European Commission is leading the development of a “Transition Pathway” for the chemical industry. The Transition Pathway will serve as a guide or compass, as it should outline enabling conditions and hurdles that need to be addressed. It should also offer the industry clear timelines with sequenced changes to help industry transform while remaining competitive.
We are reaching a make-or-break moment for the European chemicals industry. Yet, it is an industry that has always been driven by innovation, passion for new technologies and an entrepreneurial spirit. Maybe because of this, the industry remains optimistic that Europe can overcome even the toughest obstacles and continue investing in the production of solutions on European soil that can help us achieve the goals of the European Green Deal. One example? Solutions like advanced materials – many of which are indispensable to creating a climate-neutral and circular European economy by 2050.
Let’s talk about solutions with advanced materials
Today, the chemical industry is applying its ingenuity to develop advanced materials that are smart, sustainable and circular by design.
Some incredible advanced materials have already left the research and development pipeline on the “double-twin” transition journey, from semiconductors for solar panels, carbon-fiber reinforced composites for windmill blades, better batteries and lightweight materials for transportation, to better insulation and coatings, to name just a few.
We’re here to share the exciting progress, but also to kick-start the conversation about the path ahead. Because scaling-up these innovations in our homes, businesses and critical infrastructure across 27 member countries is an enormous undertaking. And the clock to 2050 keeps ticking.
Here is some innovation inspiration to get the conversation started.
Our offices and houses have a heavy impact on our carbon footprint. Buildings in the EU today are responsible for 40 percent of Europe’s energy consumption and 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions1. Conventional-material science alone can’t solve this problem. But innovative chemistry can and is working on novel advanced materials that can help us lower the environmental footprint of our buildings.
Take a look at this window glass. Chemical engineers have equipped it with special properties to avoid a “greenhouse” effect. With the wonders of chemistry, the 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’re treated with a newly formulated coating that soils less quickly from dust and other dirt, making them far easier to clean on rooftops. The result is higher-performing panels that generate more solar power for our energy-hungry homes. Silicone solutions engineered with chemistry are also making repair and maintenance for solar panels a whole lot easier, extending their lifespan under the sun and sending less waste to landfill.
All these solutions aren’t just good for the environment and Europe’s carbon footprint. They create efficiencies that help save on energy bills, make our spaces more comfortable and more livable, and are vital to increase Europe’s strategic energy independence.
Your mobile phone case cracks. Now, imagine the plastic repairs itself. It’s not sci-fi, it’s chemistry2. Self-healing polymers are being designed to respond to stimuli like cracks, pressure or temperature in smart materials.
And this solution is already market-ready for concrete. A material with a tremendous impact on human history, creating the literal foundation for our built environment. But concrete carries a hefty carbon footprint throughout its lifespan and can crack under pressure and time.
Chemists have catalyzed a genius solution. When a crack forms, it triggers bacteria to produce limestone that fills in the gaps, improving the lifespan of concrete constructions by an estimated 40 percent. This means less concrete needs to be produced for repairs and maintenance. For those of us in Brussels, imagine fewer tunnel closures and traffic jams from aging concrete.
Beyond concrete, self-healing solutions are in the works for paints, varnishes, coatings and more. Altogether, these innovations mean less cost for consumers, less waste sent to landfills, and less energy is used to produce and transport new materials for repairs. But supportive policy is still needed to advance these innovations. We’ve started a chemistry network to accelerate progress on this front, too.
Solutions for our “blue gold”
Water is a precious resource that, in a warming world, we need to transport more water in a secure way 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 transport water for up to 20 years with little to no maintenance. The solution comes from a plant that grows in arid regions in the world. In the form of a high-performing powder, it coats pipes with long-lasting protection.
Now, take a look at this ultra-filtration membrane. It’s a game-changer for cleaning wastewater. Engineered with chemistry, it’s tough and resistant. This means we can safely, quickly and efficiently return water back to the environment to help quench the thirst of the planet.
Be part of the solution – let’s transition together
Chemical innovation with advanced materials is catalyzing the EU Green Deal and continuing Europe’s proud legacy as a continent of invention where tremendous breakthroughs for humanity can emerge.
But realizing this dream requires scaling-up innovation from the lab bench to European homes, businesses and critical infrastructure. The European industry faces the biggest transition in its history, and the Transition Pathway for the chemical industry is an opportunity to help the chemical industry navigate the road ahead and offer reassurance that Europe will continue to remain an attractive place for investments in the long term. Chemicals are the basis of almost every sector and product. A thriving EU chemical industry is an absolute pre-requisite to the success of the European Green Deal.
Join Future Chemistry Network, with policymakers, scientists, civil society and all sectors, to add to the conversation.
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