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Sustainability and Circular Economy

A research theme of our Institute is ​​sustainability and the transition of the chemical industry to a circular economy. The aim of our research in this area is to contribute to a more sustainable use of resources and a longer life cycle of products.

In our research, we focus on life cycle and environmental impact assessments.[1,2] Results of our work in this area have, for example, provided new insights into the CO2 footprint and the global warming potential along the battery value chain [ 3] and environmental impacts of direct air carbon capture and storage systems [4].

Another focus of our research in this area is on the recycling of products. For example, in our research we were able to show when a complete circular economy for critical materials (lithium, cobalt, nickel) in batteries is possible and which strategies can be used to reach these points sooner.[5]

In addition, we investigate the role of renewable energies in the location choice of energy-intensive production facilities [6], future costs of hydrogen as key energy carrier of the future [7] and the optimal mix of different energy sources for the operation of production facilities.

[1] Gutsch, M., & Leker, J. (2022). Global warming potential of lithium-ion battery energy storage systems: A review. Journal of Energy Storage, 52, 105030.

[2] Wentker, M., Greenwood, M., Asaba, M. C., & Leker, J. (2019). A raw material criticality and environmental impact assessment of state-of-the-art and post-lithium-ion cathode technologies. Journal of Energy Storage, 26, 101022.

[3] Gutsch, M., & Leker, J. (2024). Costs, carbon footprint, and environmental impacts of lithium-ion batteries–From cathode active material synthesis to cell manufacturing and recycling. Applied Energy, 353, 122132.

[4] Gutsch, M., Leker, J. (2024). Co-assessment of costs and environmental impacts for off-grid direct air carbon capture and storage systems. Communications Engineering, 3, 14, https://doi.org/10.1038/s44172-023-00152-6.

[5] Wesselkämper, J., Dahrendorf, L., Mauler, L., Lux, S., & von Delft, S. (2024). A battery value chain independent of primary raw materials: Towards circularity in China, Europe and the US. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 201, 107218.

[6] Asaba, M. C., Duffner, F., Frieden, F., Leker, J., & von Delft, S. (2022). Location choice for large‐scale battery manufacturing plants: Exploring the role of clean energy, costs, and knowledge on location decisions in Europe. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 26(4), 1514-1527.

[7] Frieden, F., & Leker, J. (2024). Future costs of hydrogen: a quantitative review. Sustainable Energy Fuels. doi: 10.1039/D4SE00137K.