Scientific Directions Update #7

Thursday, 21 September, 2023

Its great scientific news that we can welcome Luleå University of Technology (LTU) as a new academic partner in the Center. We welcome Tomas Zobel and Linn Berglund to the Board and if you are curious to know more about LTU and their reasons for joining the Swedish Life Cycle Center there is a news article that you can read.

The latest on the SLC’s big upcoming conference is that we now have a website.  It’s a little light on detail for now but there is some information, and you will know where to look from now on:

SETAC Europe 26th LCA Symposium

There are lots of ways for you to participate in this important event, from presenting to sponsorship or just attending to learn out the latest developments.

Now for a few teasers about some fresh research published by our partners this year…

News of new nickel from up north

Sina Shakibania at LTH and colleagues performed a classic process development LCA to improve an innovative method for extracting valuable nickel and vanadium from combustion fly ash.  In this way they were able to show that choosing the right chemical for part of the job (the leaching operation) has huge environmental consequences in subsequent unit operations, creating a clear winner (sulfuric rather than hydrochloric acid).  Increasing vanadium supplies in particular, using technology like this, might be a good idea if vanadium redox flow batteries are to “go big” and our reliance on Russian and Chinese mines is to be reduced.

Read publication

Blending methods to promote sleeping southwards

How about taking the overnight train to Berlin next trip?  Morfeldt, Curtale (at Chalmers), Kamb (at KTH) and friends made an interesting combination of their recent experimental choice modelling outcomes with industry travel statistics and LCA scenario analysis to provide an assessment of the prospects for people switching from aeroplanes to overnight trains for holiday travel.  Unfortunately, they expect total greenhouse impacts to increase with overall demand unless some bold policy interventions are made, but they also expect significant savings to occur compared with their baseline scenarios with some relatively modest enhancements to the train system.

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Vegan LCA (not a new method ;-))

A literature review can be challenging to write, but even more so when the aim is to quantitatively integrate the results of different LCAs.  But Shanmugam, Bryngelsson, Östergren and Hallström (all at RISE) were not fazed and took a critical look at papers on plant-based meat alternatives.  They managed to integrate nine studies with enough confidence to calculate an average climate impact of 1.7 kg CO2-e/kg, well below almost anything animalian.  (Actually, here I should probably mention Coelho and colleagues from Chalmers, being one of them, who estimated a tiny 1.1 kg CO2-e/kg for our finest lingonberry and herring filleting sidestream rescued protein product (Coelho et al, 2022, Future Foods).  Not that you can buy it yet.)

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Rotation improves impacts

Nilsson, El Khost, Bergkvist and Öborn (all at SLU) and Tidåker (at IVL – where Nilsson also sits) made the most of a luxuriously long agricultural yield dataset (stretching back to the 1960s) to get robust estimates of the value of “leys”, periods of pasture interspersed into other cropping.  They looked at three traditional LCA indicators and soil organic carbon levels, and suggest there are real benefits from running leguminous leys as a part of farm planning, even without considering the recent shocks to nitrogen fertilizer pricing.

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Flat panels to flatten the (heating) curve

Wooden thermal energy batteries were studied by Montanari, Chen, Olsen and Berglund (KTH), who teamed with Lidfeldt and Gunnarson (IVL).  Using a delignified birch “skeleton” structure to hold a phase-changing material allows the construction of biobased “transparent wood” wall panels with the ability to let light into a room and to smooth daily air temperature variations.  This cradle to gate LCA showed the innovative material is a notable upgrade on fossil-based alternatives.  There are mixed messages in print about the overall benefits of less innovative paneling (e.g.: Struhala & Ostry, 2022, J Cleaner Prod.) so it will be interesting to see these results placed in a cradle to grave context in the future.

Read publication

If you would like to draw attention to progress which researchers your SLC partner organization are making in developing new methods and other developments in the next Scientific Directions Update, please feel free to contact me:

Meet Gregory Peters, Scientific Director at the Swedish Life Cycle Center

Gregory Peters assumed the role of Scientific Director at the Swedish Life Cycle Center on September 1, 2021. He is a Professor in Environmental Systems Analysis at Chalmers University of Technology and is responsible for enhancing the Center’s scientific contributions. In this role, Gregory works closely with Center Director Maria Rydberg to ensure high-quality research in the field of life cycle assessment. He holds a 10% full-time affiliation with the Swedish Life Cycle Center until end of 2024.

Learn more about Gregory Peters and his research on his profile.