Materials and Product Systems

Product systems in the overall focus

The depiction of special materials – high-performance plastics, rare metals, vegetable extracts, carbon fibers, and composites – in Life Cycle Assessments is the core competence of the Working Group on Materials and Product Systems. This extends from production of the basic materials and their processing into workpieces and components, up to end-of-life recycling or disposal. Materials and components are always integrated into overall value-added chains, which in the context of Life Cycle Assessments we refer to as product systems.

The basis is provided by the modeling of mass and energy analyses of the individual processes in the value-added chain and the life cycle, combined into a system model. The relevant product-related material and energy flows can already be derived from this and depicted in the value-added chain. For optimization toward sustainable development on a process and system level, both the ecological and the economic drivers in the process chain can be identified and the significance of individual process parameters compared against the options for varying entire product systems, whereby complex interdependences are taken into account and discussed in detail. The results provide support both to scientists in the development of materials and processes for the more distant future, and to companies in strategic decisions relating to materials and processes; they also serve as criteria for the awarding of labels such as Carbon Footprints or Environmental Product Declarations (EPD, PEF).

 

Land use and biodiversity

The calculation and measurement of the impact of products, land use, and human activity on ecosystem functions and biodiversity is of high relevance. Fraunhofer IBP addresses these topics in the Land Use and Biodiversity research unit.

 

Plastics and composite materials

Plastics are everywhere to be found, and new materials are being used in more and more branches of industry. However, their complex production processes and the issue of disposal stand in contrast to the savings they bring about. Life Cycle Assessment of these materials is therefore also part of the service portfolio of Fraunhofer IBP.

 

Chemistry and biotechnology

Chemistry and biotechnology are the foundation of many products. But there is a great variety of materials. Fraunhofer IBP provides support in the ecological assessment and improvement of production and in the development of sustainable production processes.

 

Recycling processes and recovery of raw materials

Environmentally compatible products must be fully recyclable and require high-quality recycling technology. When is what form of recycling appropriate? How are recycling methods assessed, and what does this mean for the ecological footprint? Fraunhofer IBP deals with these and similar questions in the Recycling Methods and Raw Materials Recovery research unit.

 

Printed electronics and the Internet of Things (IoT)

In the context of the Internet of Things (IoT) nano-based inks, and therefore also printed electronic circuits, play a key role as a lightweight, flexible and economical alternative to components produced by conventional means. Fraunhofer IBP investigates their environmental effects over the entire life cycle.