Trends that are Catalyzing Chemical Innovations

A look at the evolving landscape shaping the chemicals industry

The Coronavirus outbreak is catalyzing innovations in the global chemicals industry. Customers are witnessing the influx of antiviral and antimicrobial materials, machine learning for better testing of chemicals and 3D printing amongst other trends. Manufacturers are increasing efforts to strike the right balance between innovation and the future for a circular economy to boost their credibility credentials.

Circular economy goals

Chemical companies are taking cues from the European Green Deal of 2019 to tackle climate change and environmental degradation. Growing e-waste from smartphones is suggested to be recycled. Since recycling also contributes for a large carbon footprint during production process, smartphone companies are bullish on increasing the lifespan of mobile devices. Repairable and upgradeable smartphones are becoming the new rage in forming a circular economy.

Deep Dive in Chemicals for Oil & Gas Industry

Production chemists are gaining cognizance about key aspects like improved oil recovery and enhanced oil recovery. However, the issue of greenhouse gas emissions is stifling market growth. Since increasing number of chemical companies are keen on adding value to their business operations, they are joining forces with researchers and technicians to adopt a proactive approach at knowing emission inventories, the emission sources and the parameters required to control individual emissions.

Hydrogen economy and the rising customer expectations

Hydrogen technology is gaining prominence in automobiles and the overall mobility sector. Proton exchange membrane cells are paving the way for emission-free vehicles with a long range and the advantage of having a quick refueling. But high implemention cost in the current early stages of fuel cell technology is inhibiting market growth. Thus, companies should maximize production of hydrogen using high temperature solid oxide electrolysis (SOEC), proton exchange membrane electrolysis (PEM) and alkaline electrolysis (AWE) to lower its cost during the coming years.

Increasing number of customers are willing to associate with environmental-conscious companies. Chemical companies are using strategies like improved waste recovery, water management and power to X technologies, where the latter is a method that uses CO2 to convert it into useful chemicals via biomass combustion & waste combustion techniques. Biotechnology holds potentials to produce useful industrial enzymes and remediate environmental pollution.

In all aspects, investment in R&D by partnering with think-tanks and technicians will help chemical companies to build a sustainable future for customers in the value chain.

Researchers Develop Fuel Cell Technology

In a ground-breaking development, researchers at Washington State University have made a significant advancement in solid oxide fuel cells. Consequently, the low-polluting and highly energy-efficient technology could be a sustainable alternative to petrol combustion engines for powering vehicles.

The study carried out by two researchers involved developing a rare and affordable nanoparticle catalyst that enables the fuel cell to transform logistic liquid fuels such as petrol to electricity without interrupting during the electrochemical process. The study is published in the journal, Applied Catalysis B: Environmental. As a result of the research, it could enable highly efficient gasoline-fueled cars that release low carbon dioxide emissions contributing to global warming.

“Individuals are concerned about environment, energy, and global warming,” said the lead researcher of the study. The solution to the energy problem has enabled reducing emissions that contribute to global warming.

Structurally Similar to Batteries, Fuel Cells superior for Energy Generation

Fuel cells are a clean and highly efficient medium to transform chemical energy in fuels directly into electrical energy. Akin to batteries, fuel cells have an anode, a cathode, and electrolyte. Meanwhile, fuel cells can transmit continuous flow of electricity as long as there is fuel contrary to batteries that deliver previously stored electricity.

Also, fuel cells can serve to be more efficient than combustion engines in cars. This is because fuel cells run on electrochemical reactions instead of mechanical work carried out by a piston. In fuel cells, if hydrogen is used as fuel the only waste released is water. Nonetheless, storing high-pressure hydrogen gas for hydrogen fuel cell technology, accounts for its share of significant economic and safety challenges. In the U.S., hydrogen gas infrastructure is limited, thus penetration of the technology is very low.