Chemical Product Design in a Sustainable Environment
Norddahl, Birgir

How to Cite

Norddahl B., 2021, Chemical Product Design in a Sustainable Environment, Chemical Engineering Transactions, 86, 1339-1344.


From 2050 EU countries have decided to be climate neutral i.e. live by an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, which means that the EU countries shall abandon all fossil carbon raw materials from production of chemicals and generation of power. Many countries outside EU have similar agendas and this change will affect all previously given ways for production of commodities like polymers, pharmaceuticals and fuels and change the way other non-carbon products like e.g. cement in the chemical industry are produced.  Traditionally chemical engineers have been trained in process technologies producing commodities like fuel, ammonia, polymers from crude oil and natural gas and e.g. cement using oil and gas as fuels for the kilns, following a mature protocol, where invention has been replaced with optimisation and efficiency.
If, however, future commodities after 2050 can no longer be made by using fossil basic materials a new paradigm must be followed, where commodities are made from generic processes in unit operations designed for specific processes with a new type of basic materials and will no longer follow purpose directed processes in purpose-built machinery.
The future life of the chemical engineer is changed due to a shift in raw material to more sustainable materials and in doing that the procedure of Chemical Product Design could be applied. In this work it is exemplified how this change can be affected in a rational way and shown with some practical examples e.g. how to make future fibres for textiles based on biomass derived raw materials. This simple analysis shows that in the future a replacement for the abundant polymer PET can be poly-lactate (PLA)In the future of chemical engineering things might change radically in one particular way: Chemical product design as well as process design have focused on optimizing security in manufacturing and in this respect preferentially on the use of non-toxic basic material as well as economy. In the future sustainability will probably be the main parameter to optimize including safety, use of non-toxic materials and less attention will be paid on the economy, albeit, this will still be important.