Systems Engineering Makes The Carbon Go Round – From Molecular Design to Net-Zero Plastics
by André Bardow


Our linear model of producing chemicals and plastics is unsustainable. The chemical industry needs to replace its current fossil basis with renewables. Since deCARBONization is no alternative for chemicals and plastics, renewable carbon sources are required.

The conversion of these renewable carbon sources into chemicals relies on innovation on the molecular scale, but needs to be rapidly upscaled to efficient processes and integrated into the highly integrated supply chains of the chemical industry.

In this presentation, we will present systems engineering approaches to address the transformation towards a circular chemical industry. Circular carbon can come from biomass, CO2, and waste.

Novel chemical transformations of these carbon feedstocks need be rapidly analyzed, optimized and upscaled. For this purpose, we integrate molecular design methods into conceptual process design.

To design towards both economic and environmental objectives already at early stages of development, predictive methods for life-cycle assessment are developed. The resulting optimized conversion processes are then integrated into a bottom-up model of the chemical industry.

Thereby, trade-offs and potential synergies can be resolved between the renewable carbon sources biomass, CO2 and waste recycling. Promising circular pathways are identified leading towards a net-zero chemical industry.