Although life cycle assessments do not save the environment, it can make industry think, as the example of life cycle assessments for electronics shows. Every electronic product, useful as it may be, comes with a heavy ecological backpack: From the extraction of raw materials used and design decisions to the use and disposal of an electronic product, every step in the manufacturing process leaves its mark on the environment. Researchers at Fraunhofer IZM analyse the entire life cycle of electronic products and product groups on the basis of standardised benchmarks and ISO norms and develop optimisation proposals.
Ever more manufacturers and users are interested in the environmental impact that products have. The focus is not only on what a product can do but also on the conditions under which it was manufactured.
This movement is also supported by politics: For example, the "2nd Circular Economy Action Plan" of the European Commission outlines how environmental management and product design must be oriented in the future in order to be as resource-saving and climate-neutral as possible.
Life cycle assessments comprise complex factors and, if possible, all conceivable scenarios. The energy consumption of the appliance is what counts in the evaluation, as well as repairs and maintenance.
When an end product has reached the end of its useful life, recycling processes or disposal can also trigger further environmental impacts to be included in the overall life cycle assessment.
"It is essential to have an understanding not only of the analysis but also of the technologies at stake. Only then can solution-oriented design improvements, suitable indicators and requirements for the supply chain be derived," emphasises Karsten Schischke, expert for environmental assessment and ecodesign at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM.
Schischke and his team have taken on the challenge posed by the fact that hardly any data on the service life and utility of new products is known.
Fraunhofer IZM is qualified to perform such analyses for companies as an independent third-party due to its many years of expertise in the field of microelectronics. Based on the relevant ISO standards for life cycle assessment and environmental management*, researchers at Fraunhofer IZM evaluate and verify the life cycle assessments of third-parties and contribute, above all, to the ecological optimisation of products and processes. They indicate which substances need to be substituted or which processes need to be changed.
However, preparing a life cycle assessment is not a five-minute process. By way of example: As part of an assignment, Fraunhofer IZM experts were tasked with drawing up a life cycle assessment for the sustainably developed smartphone called Fairphone. The trick behind this smartphone: Several components are modular, meaning that they can be easily replaced in case of failure.
Users are thus encouraged to have the Fairphone repaired instead of buying a new one. The multi-layered study by Fraunhofer IZM showed that despite a sustainable product design, the Fairphone initially causes greater environmental impact during production because more individual components are initially produced for the modular composition.
If this modularity, in turn, contributes to a longer service life for the overall product, the impact then becomes positive. Whether this also applies to the successor generation – the Fairphone 3 – will be presented at the upcoming virtual conference Electronics Goes Green , which is organised by Fraunhofer IZM and will be live from August 20.
At the established sustainability conference, the environmental aspects of modular equipment will also be the subject of a whole block of topics, which will examine not only the life cycle assessments of electronic products but also the various technology systems.
Schischke summarises his work with these words: "The better product is the goal, not necessarily the perfect assessment," and adds: "LCAs are dynamic: reparability, modularity and product design – all factors should be considered from day one to create a more sustainable product".
Furthermore, the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions at European level can still have far-reaching effects if a CO2 tax is introduced as announced: For this purpose, greenhouse gas emissions that arise during production, i.e. in the upstream chains of imported goods, are to be priced.
Schischke and his team see great potential in environmental assessment despite the challenges: "Climate neutrality is already a real goal for many companies. However, many companies only focus on the effects of their own production and energy consumption. It is at least as important to look at the supply chain in order to procure only climate-neutral components in the medium- and long-term."
*ISO 14040, 14044, 14064-3 compliant https://www.iso.org/iso-14001-environmental-management.html
Karsten Schischke l Phone +49 30 46403- 156 l email@example.com |
Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM I Gustav-Meyer-Allee 25 | 13355 Berlin | www.izm.fraunhofer.de |
Susann Thoma | Fraunhofer-Institut für Zuverlässigkeit und Mikrointegration IZM
Record efficiency for printed solar cells
09.07.2020 | Swansea University
Bespoke catalysts for power-to-X
09.07.2020 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)
New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices
Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...
Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class
In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...
Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.
Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....
Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.
Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...
A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...
07.07.2020 | Event News
02.07.2020 | Event News
19.05.2020 | Event News
10.07.2020 | Life Sciences
10.07.2020 | Materials Sciences
10.07.2020 | Life Sciences