ACceleration of Circular Economy for Printable Photovoltaics Through Eco-Design (ACCEPTED)

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: School of Engineering

Abstract

Humankind is on the brink of significant climate change and material resource shortages. We have reached the limits of our traditional 'take-make-dispose' linear economic models in which materials are extracted from the earth to create products which are discarded at the end of their useful lives. To achieve sustainability with our planet we must rethink the way we consume and use resources and seek to decouple economic growth from primary resource consumption and the associated environmental emissions. Circular economy and the widespread deployment of green energy technologies are essential to achieve this.

Even renewable energy technologies have an environmental impact associated with production and disposal at end-of-life, and we must seek to minimise these impacts and maximise product take back for reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling once these technologies have ceased to be of use. To achieve this requires lifecycle optimisation, which takes account of product design and development of end-of-life processes. Printable photovoltaics (PPV) are a promising green energy technology in their infancy, which makes this the perfect time to carry out this research. Now is the time to develop processes and product designs which enable effective end-of-life treatment for efficient recovery of materials and components with which to manufacture new products, to drive down cost and environmental impacts of these emerging technologies, increasing the productivity of finite resources available to us. This project develops the eco-design of PPV informed by advanced characterisation and engagement with industrial partners and stakeholders at all stages of PV product lifecycles. This combined novel multidisciplinary approach to technical development of emerging technologies, which engages key industry partners and stakeholders in the value chain; and the development of methods, tools and knowledge required for lifecycle optimisation, can hasten commercialisation of PPV technology and accelerate transition towards circular economy for the greater benefit of the economy, environment and society.

Planned Impact

The primary purpose of the proposed research impact the commercialisation of emerging PPV technologies. The strategy to manufacture prototype modules at pilot scale for further study will also help accelerate sustainable PPV products through TRLs towards commercialisation.

This project is expected to generate mid- to long term industrial and economic impact for the R+D and energy sectors in the UK. The project will contribute to the understanding and scaling of PPV which will potentially contribute to the future UK energy supply mix. Stable, low cost, high efficiency solar cells could potentially transform the UK economy, accelerating the current uptake of photovoltaics for both domestic and industrial use in building integrated applications.

Positive environmental impact associated with the increased use of photovoltaics in the UK will have significant environmental and societal advantages. It will significantly contribute to a reduction in CO2 emissions, helping to circumvent the impending complication of global warming and climate change. Environmental benefits will also result from lower emissions associated with production of PPV through re-manufacturing or with recovered or secondary raw materials in contrast to manufacturing from primary raw materials. In addition, economic and societal benefits will result from the initiation of circular industry. In Wales alone transition to circular economy has been projected to be worth £2bn and result in the creation of 30,000 new jobs.

This project will reinforce collaboration with; academia (SU-UoN, Eco-Design Centre), industry (SU-TATA, AkzoNobel, Edinburgh Instruments, NSG, BIPVco, WRAP) government (SU-Welsh Government) and globally (SU-UKZN). I regularly generate IP and publish well-cited papers in high impact journals. I believe this fellowship will allow me to make significant advances towards the commercialisation of PPV and leverage further funding through Innovate UK and the Industrial Strategy Fund.

Thisproject will aim to:
1) Deliver efficient, low-cost, low embodied energy, PPV technology designed for end-of-life remanufacture and demonstrate this at pilot scale. Products will result in lower levelised costs for energy generation (LCOE).

2) Disseminate results across the scientific and technological communities through:
a) >12 REF 4* papers in high impact international journals, which will be made open access
b) 2-4 patents on innovative eco-designed PPV aspects
c) >6 High profile international and national presentations at international and national conferences on subjects ranging from materials chemistry, solar energy manufacturing and technology
d) informing teaching within the College of Engineering at Swansea University. I lead a module on Circular Economy for Sustainable Development and significant project results will be discussed impacting positively on education and training of the students and increasing the link to, and information on, cutting edge research. Findings will also be disseminated to industry through the SU METAL programmes circular economy module.
e) 3 circular surgery seminar events (1 p.a.) held at Swansea University with invited industrial, academic and NGO guests.
f) Sandpit events at Burlington House, supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry to bring together academia and industry to develop circular economy strategies and highlight best practice and success stories.

I have significant track record on community engagement through both national and international invited public lectures, the running of hands-on and demonstration workshops, and larger scale outreach events globally. The results of this research project will be disseminated via these opportunities as well as through the RSC (elected council member of ESED). Results, images and breakthroughs (after compliance with the proposal IPR strategy) will be showcased through the SPECIFIC-IKC and Swansea University websites and social media platforms.
 
Description We have begun development of a materials priority for substitution matrix and are currently exploring and evaluating methods for the re-manufacture of perovskite devices. This is based on the use of known solvent systems as well as newly developed 'greener' viable alternatives identified and evaluated during this project.
We have identified a number of green solvent alternative for use in perovskite deposition and are currently engaging with the scale up team at SPECIFIC/Swansea University on developing printing formulations based on these solvents. This includes development of novel perovskite pre-cursor solutions which as far as we know are not yet reported in the literature.
Exploitation Route We hope to lessen some of the environmental cost of the manufacture of perovskite devices through our development, we hope to publish some of these developments soon which we hope will provide a structure and method for the field to use in developing more sustainable perovskite devices.
Our work examining priority primary materials for substitution in devices also opens avenues for others to begin to develop processes for conversion of wastes to secondary raw materials which represent superior economic benefits to 'business as usual' in the recycling sector.
Sectors Creative Economy,Energy,Environment

 
Description This award is at a very early stage but has helped develop the reputation of the group carrying out leading research in the field. As a result of the work of Dr Davies and Charles on the Royal Society of Chemistry ESED Council the RSC are pushing "waste" as a key theme for 2019. In September 2018, through an RSC event, we brought together academia, industry and policy makers to discuss issues around the mitigation of waste from emerging technology. As a result of this event this award was recognised nationally and both Dr Davies and Charles have been invited to consortia and working groups to continue to address these issues. The RSC allows us a voice to influence government and policy in this area as demonstrated by Dr Davies recently (Feb 2019) presenting at the Chemical Stakeholder Forum (https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/uk-chemicals-stakeholder-forum). Findings from the project are also being used in taught modules about sustainable engineering and circular economy in SU CoE. We have engaged with a wide range of stakeholders regarding circular economy and critical raw materials issues including policy makers such as Dr Andy Rees (Head of Waste Strategy and circular Economy - Welsh Government), and a number of wider stakeholders such as Tech UK (Susanne Baker), the ESA (Jacob Rindegren - recycling policy advisor) and DEFRA (Callum Harris).
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Chemicals,Creative Economy,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Presentation at the Chemical Stakeholder Forum
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Working group of the RSC engaging with policy makers and industry on issues of waste from emerging technology
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description Funding for a Sub-group of the RSC ESED Council to run a workshop on "Mitigating Issues of Future Wastes: Enhancing Resource Productivity in Emerging Technologies"
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Society of Chemistry 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 12/2018
 
Description Swansea University Capital Equipment for ECRs
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S017925/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 05/2020
 
Description CERIG 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact CERIG is the Circular Economy Research and Innovation Group for Wales - a group comissioned by Welsh Government which comprises of members from across Wales HEIs working on different aspect of circular economy. The purpose of the group is to help facilitate transfer of circular economy expertise into indsutry to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.iwa.wales/click/2018/07/arloesedd-economi-gylchol-yng-nghymru-circular-economy-innovation...
 
Description CRM Recovery final conference panel debate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Rhys Charles participated on an expert panel for a debate and Q&A session at 'A second LIFE for Critical Raw Materials - Final Conference for the Critical Raw Material Closed Loop Recovery Project - Royal Society, London, 20th Feb 2019. Questions about numerous aspects of the critical raw material issue and sustainability in electronics through circular economy from the audience. Discussions initally focused on the role that consumers. producers, recyclers, trade bodies, government can play to enable improvements in WEEE collection and CRM recovery and how all these parties can work together for best outcomes. Also on the Panel were: Pascal Leroy - Secretary General of the WEEE forum; Susanne Baker - Tech UK; Karen O'Donoghue - British Heart Foundation. Following the debate RC successfully engaged with numerous interested audience member about tackling further relevent issues through collaborative R&I including the director of R&D for Huawei, UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.criticalrawmaterialrecovery.eu/news-events/a-second-life-for-critical-raw-materials-20th-...
 
Description CrEAM Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact CrEAM Network Launch event, Birmingham University, 13th Nov 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/metallurgy-materials/news/2018/Critical-Elements-and-Materials-...
 
Description Future Wastes 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference organised on behalf of the Royal Society of Chemistry by Rhys Charles and Matthew Davies. 'Mitigating issues of future wastes: enhancing resource productivity in emerging technologies' - 5 Sep 2018, Burlington House, London. Purpose of the event
Progress in resource efficiency in throughout emerging technologies lifecycles will require multi-disciplinary collaborative R&I between academia and industries involved in all stages of product lifecycles; and support from additional key stakeholders including government, professional bodies, NGOs and consultancies. 'Mitigating issues of future wastes: enhancing resource productivity in emerging technologies' will bring together these partners to explore challenges in lifecycle optimisation of emerging products which generate, store and use electricity. The event will provide an opportunity for industry and other crucial stakeholders to engage with the world class UK research base in order to:

Identify opportunities to 'reduce raw material demand and waste in our energy systems and lifecycles of emerging technologies, and create well-functioning markets for secondary materials'.
Identify current or best practice in lifecycles of products.
Examine key challenges for lifecycle optimisation of emerging energy generating, storage and using products which chemistry can help to address.
Establish new links between academia & industry which enable collaborative demand driven R&I to tackle these lifecycle challenges.
Provide an overview of funding and other support mechanisms for collaborative R&I in these areas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.rsc.org/events/detail/34083/mitigating-issues-of-future-wastes-enhancing-resource-product...
 
Description RSC Waste & Resources Focus Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact First meeting of the RSC Waste & Resource focus group - Rhys Charles and Matthew Davies of RSC ESED Council, and Swansea University participated in meeting of this working group which includes RSC staff and representatives of Tech UK, the ESA and Non-Ferrous Alliance to discuss policy recommendations which will enhace resource efficiency particularly for critical raw materials used in emerging and green technologies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Sustainable futures for off-grid solar and batteries 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Sustainable futures for off-grid solar and batteries
Whole systems approaches to recycling and waste
Workshop at Durham University, Collier Room, College of St Hild and St Bede, Durham DH1 1SZ

Monday 28th January 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.dur.ac.uk/dei/projects/sustainablefutures/
 
Description Tata Steel training academy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Attended Tata Steel Training Academy to discuss the ongoing work with SPECIFC, the importance of this work and the role of TATA in it to members of the training academy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019