Life Cycle Thinking

Production of nanocellulose from carrot residue: LCA for ecodesign

6 novembre 2017

The FP7 INCOM project recently ended, leaving us with valuable results, memories of a great experience and inspiring professional exchange.

The main objective of the INCOM project was to develop techno-economical production methods for manufacturing lightweight structures based on advanced sustainable materials for use in vehicles, aeronautical applications and sporting goods. Such structures are lightweight and resistant composite sandwich structures reinforced with nano-fibrillated cellulose (NFC), a nanoscale material derived from cellulose found in biomass and biowaste.

The role of 2B, as WP leader of environmental assessment, was to evaluate with LCA and LCC the production of nanocellulose from carrot bioresidues from lab scale to pilot scale, in order to provide ecodesign feedback during each stage of development. Furthermore, LCA and LCC were performed on the lightweight structure and on three demonstrators developed during the project (a bulkhead for the automotive sector, ski poles for the sporting sector and a doghouse for aeronautical applications).

What is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a well known analytical tool to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product, process or service along its entire life cycle. LCA has widespread applications in product development and ecodesign, policy making, ecolabelling and green procurement.

 

Here we show the contribution of LCA and LCC to the ecodesign of the production of nanocellulose from carrot residues.

The original process included the following phases:

  • Washing
  • alkali-treatment
  • bleaching
  • washing
  • Masuko grinding

The LCA has identified chemicals and electricity consumption as environmental hotspots. On the base of these results LTU (Luleå University of Technology) redesigned the process omitting the pre-treatment phase (washing and alkali-treatment), still keeping the same quality of the process and of the final product.

The LCA and LCC performed on the new process showed the following improvement:

  • The environmental burden has been reduced by factor 4, due to a higher NFC yield and reduced consumption of chemicals, energy and water.
  • The Carbon Footprint has been reduced from 234 g CO2 to 58,6 g CO2 eq. for 1 kg of NFC, water dispersion 2%.
  • The LCC has shown a reduction in life-cycle costs by a factor 2.
  • The combination of LCA and LCC has enabled to assess the eco-efficiency of the new process, showing a clear win/win situation, in terms of both costs and environmental impacts.

The application of LCA and LCC within the project has been summarized in a brochure available to the public: http://www.incomproject.eu/flyers/LCA_brochure.pdf

A brochure is also available on the purpose and goals of the project: http://www.incomproject.eu/flyers/INCOM_brochure.pdf

More information on the INCOM project website: http://www.incomproject.eu/index.htm

The consortium of the INCOM project was composed of industrial participants together with leading European institutes and universities expert in biocomposites, processing technologies and sol-gel development from seven European countries.

The INCOM project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under the Grant Agreement no 608746.

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