Catalysis is an enabling technology that can help promote significant energy savings in the chemical industry and provide products of crucial importance for sustainable development in the future. However, several studies within the area of green chemistry and sustainable catalysis promote new techniques and products as “sustainable” or “more environmentally benign” without taking a life cycle–wide perspective and quantifying their benefits and tradeoffs. Life cycle approaches such as life-cycle assessment or material flow analysis can be used (oftentimes even during process development) to quantify environmental impacts and resource flows, and thereby help to elucidate improvement options and avoid shifting of (environmental) burdens to other parts of the life cycle. Resource criticality assessments can provide additional information with regard to possible resource constraints.
This book chapter first introduces a number of system analysis tools used to quantify material stocks and flows and associated environmental effects along a product’s life cycle. Our focus is on environmental impacts, but a few references regarding social and economic approaches in the system analysis toolbox are also provided. We then continue to discuss the use of these tools in the context of sustainable (green) chemistry and catalysis. The chapter concludes with a case study applying life-cycle assessment to bioacrylics.
In book: Catalysis for Sustainability; Sustainability Contributions through Science Technology, Chapter 8. Life Cycle Thinking Informs Catalysis Choice and Green Chemistry, Publisher: CRC Press, Editors: Thomas P Umile, pp.177–194
Author Copy available here.