Technologies

  • By Giovanni Colombo, Senior Public Affairs Manager at EIT Food – from ReThink 2020 English Version EIT Food is one of the eight Knowledge and Innovation Communities created by the EU under the umbrella of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and is building an ecosystem to generate innovative solutions to make the food system more circular and bring these solutions to the market.  The “Circular Food Systems” is one of the six Focus Areas. EIT Food, as Europe’s leading food initiative, is working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy, and trusted.  It works in synergy with Europe’s leading agri-food companies, research institutes, universities, and startups to transform the food system and tackle some of the big societal challenges such as food waste. In the EU, around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated annually, which represents 20% of food production and it is estimated that this could feed 200 million people. The production and disposal of this food waste generate 170 million tonnes of CO2 which accounts for 6% of greenhouse gas emissions of the European Union. The global cost is 870 billion euros. Today, the reduction of food waste is an opportunity because it could help to close the gap between the food needed to feed the planet in 2050 and the food that was available in 2010 by more than 20%. This has been recognized also by the UN SDGs target n° 12.3 which asks us to halve the food waste by 2030. In the European context, food waste covers food loss and food waste and it occurs at all stages of the value chain. Even though in Europe food waste occurs mostly at the consumption level, synergic efforts should be addressing the problem of food waste at all stages of the value chain. Colombo...
  • By Aleksandra Kekkonen English Version Today both fields of IT development and circular economy are in the highest interest. A circular economy promises a balanced and sustainable future in a clean and flourish way with well-designed and energy-efficient assets for all stakeholders. IT field in its turn drives economic development, brings science fiction projections in life, and saves (to some extent) the world from Covid consequences making distant work and business processes reality. For sure, all the popular tech trends like AI (Artificial Intelligence), ML (Machine Learning), IoT (Internet of Things), Big Data, edge computing, robotic process automation, and others come to ease our lives. But how those two fields overlap and what influence IT has for circular economy implementation?  First of all, IT field definition should be considered to be more specific in formulations: Information Technology (IT) is the use of computers to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data or information. Necessary types of IT services include hardware & software, network Infrastructure (a company’s network infrastructure would typically include its internet connectivity and internal networking between computers and other devices (such as printers), mobile device management, cloud computing, and cybersecurity». Digital technologies play an important role in establishing real-time information exchanges among users, machines, and management systems. These technologies are intrinsically customer-focused and provide the information and connections needed to maintain a relationship far beyond the point of sale. Remote visibility and control of assets are especially critical for the Product as a Service, Sharing Platforms, and Product Life Extension business models. By altering the way businesses and consumers interact with physical and digital assets and enabling dematerialization, digital technologies can transform value chains, so they are decoupled from the need for additional resources for growth. Hybrid technology is partly digital and partly engineering. It can establish a unique type of control over assets and material flows. It allows a company to digitally identify...
  • 12 February 2021

    CE and Lithium-ion Batteries

    English Version By Alessandro Innocenti, Tondo Associate and PhD student at Helmholtz Institute Ulm A Circular Future for Energy Storage The lithium-ion battery is the key technology that is allowing the widespread adoption of electric vehicles,portable electronic devices, and renewable energy storage.Every year, an increasing number of batteries are put into the market: we passed from an installed capacity of 200 GWh of 2014 to more than 700 GWh in 2019, with a forecast of about 8000 GWh by 2030. This also means that more and more batteries will have to be retired every year after their use in one of the mentioned applications. In fact, lithium-ion batteries must be replaced after a certain time, since they show a decrease of the performances caused by inevitable chemical degradation reactions. Spent batteries can be directly sent to recycling for the material recovery, but the economic sustainability of lithium-ion battery recycling strongly depends on the presence of precious metals as cobalt (which is getting phased out for its toxicity) and nickel inside. This is the preferred route for the batteries used in consumer electronics and personal mobility systems, which are usually quite small and with a lower quality if compared to other possible applications. In fact, stricter requirements for batteries are present in the electric vehicle industry, because of the high standards in terms of autonomy and of power set by the manufacturers to be competitive with classic vehicles. Moreover, these standards must be assured for a long time, since no one wants that after one year or two from the purchase, the electric car makes 10-20% less kilometres with each “refill”. In the industry, the common threshold for the end of life of a lithium-ion battery is when it retains 80% of the initial capacity or power. The actual time needed...
  • 20 November 2020

    Digital Platforms

    By Ghali Egger English Version The need to shift to an economy that is circular and inclusive has become inevitable. At the same time there are a lot of hurdles which are hindering us from it and making this transition one of today’s greatest challenges. Among them for example there is the current linear economic model which does not value natural capital; this information does not flow with products and material down the value chain and that customers lack awareness, capacities and convenience to actively contribute to a Circular Economy.  Digital solutions like online platforms, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of things (IoT) and blockchain are already used to support Circular Economy initiatives, but the potential is even greater. If adequately steered, data and digitally enabled solutions could contribute to a system-wide transition and further enhance connectivity and the sharing of information across the value chains; make products, processes and services more circular; and empower citizens and consumers to contribute to the transition.  For this reason, the transition to a Circular Economy and the digitalisation of the economy and society should be aligned in order to benefit the environment, society and economy.  One of the ways digitalisation can enable the Circular Economy transition is in the form of digital platforms that are used for industrial symbiosis. Industrial symbiosis is a powerful approach to accelerate and scale the Circular Economy by closing resource cycles and valuing materials that would otherwise be discarded. In fact, waste is not seen as waste any longer but as a resource at the wrong place. Materials that cannot be used anymore by a company, can constitute a secondary raw material for another company. The digital platform in turn, is enabling and facilitating the process of material exchange and data flow between the companies.  The expression “symbiosis”...
  • 29 May 2020

    Enerbrain

    By Filippo Ferraris – Co-Founder and CPO of Enerbrain English Version Filippo Ferraris starts from “IoT”, Internet of Things, claiming that products such as smartwatches are not exploited as much as they can considering their rapid replacement with other increasingly innovative gadgets, a perspective that is far away from the concept of sustainability. The IoT was born with the aim of changing the planet and solving people’s problems in their daily lives. In 1991 the first IoT product was born in the laboratory of Cambridge University by Quentin Stafford and Paul Jardetzki: it was the Trojan Room Coffee Camera, thanks to which it was possible to remotely control whether the coffee maker in the Trojan Room, which required very long time to make the coffee, was full or not, and thus avoiding a useless journey from the workplace to the room. For this reasons IoT tools are born, with the aim of solving a problem. For example, a smartwatch can be used as a tool to control arrhythmia and get to know your health status in real time, by performing supporting functions for individuals. To date, the number of connected devices is 40 billion and it is no expected to stop. From computers to household appliances, from traffic lights to electrical outlets, in 2020 this value will reach 50 billion given the continuous development in IoT. Even if we don’t realize it – says Ferraris – we produce an incredible amount of data that is stored and used by third parties to make IoT products. An example is Netatmo smart thermostats which collect data on temperature that are then publicly shared, selling them to companies that make weather forecasts. These devices are leading the city to be increasingly “smart” because of its ability to obtain data from what surround them....
  • 28 February 2020

    Wave for Energy

    Andrea Gulisano – CEO at Wave for Energy English Version Andrea Gulisano began his speech by pointing out that 40% of the world population lives less than 100 km from the coast and that the possibility of having energy from the sea would not be such a remote and undervalued resource. The energy from the sea has many positive and some negative aspects; among the positive ones there is the high energy density, as it is a very concentrated energy, at about 20 meters from the surface the maximum power of the hence. Moreover, the energy from the sea is also very predictable, there are technologies that can predict the amount of resources and give inputs to tune the different technological systems and achieve maximum results. It also has a minimal environmental impact. Among the negative aspects there are: the complexity of the regulations for installation, the absence of incentives and the use of materials subject to high corrosion. Gulisano spoke of Wave for Energy, the Spinoff of the Turin Polytechnic, founded in 2010, which works to create energy technologies for a more sustainable world and which has recently started working in the open sea and not only in the laboratory. The spinoff deals with marine energy and has soon broadened its horizons, especially thanks to the collaboration with Eni and with the University of Edinburgh. Among the projects of Wave for Energy, we find “ISWEC“, a WEC (Wave Attenuator) technology, born in 2012, which consists of a 100kW device consisting of a gyroscopic system that interacts with a sealed hull producing electricity. Wave for Energy has subsequently created a full-scale system that can be used in a real environment: the sea, the goal is to reach an industrial and commercial system. In 2015 he started the project in Pantelleria...
  • 13 February 2020

    40South Energy

    By Michele Grassi – CEO & CTO of 40South Energy and Element Works English Version Michele Grassi begins his speech by introducing 40South Energy, a project born in 2007, and Elements Works, a project born in 2014. The focus of 40South Energy is to produce renewable energy from sea waves. Over the years Elements Works has adopted a sustainable approach to the resources of the sea, including one called Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) whose goal is to establish a circular approach to the marine environment. In this sector it is possible to interact with various stakeholders, including those involved in fishfarming. Data collection is also essential to have a complete picture of the environment in which you operate. We need to move towards a continuous and punctual knowledge and data collection, which at the moment is lacking. The tools that can be used at the moment are sensors that are separated by large distances that only give a partial collection of information; then there are simulations like those of Aeneas; the collections on the spot field are not enough. Sea energy is different from wind energy; it is more distributed and predictable.In 2005, Grassi had the idea of a new approach to convert sea waves into electricity. This idea has become a project, and after about 10 years it has produced a machine called H24, so called because it can work 24/24. The first prototype of this machine was installed in Marina di Pisa. This technology is particularly useful for efficient dispatching and for isolated networks.Microgrids need less energy and generally have to bear higher costs per kWh, up to 0.50 cents per kWh and even more. In this context, machines with greater capital and management costs can be exploited, and commercial installations can be made, which are self-financed...
  • 7 February 2020

    H2Boat

    By Thomas Lamberti – CEO of H2Boat English Version Thomas Lamberti started his speech by introducing the current ecological situation, underlining that thanks to the abundance of energy provided by fossil sources, mankind has experienced unprecedented growth, thanks to a rapid but not sustainable economic development based on a linear model of continuous growth. The cycle of oil formation and its consumption travel on two incredibly different time scales. Furthermore, the rapid release of fossil CO2 has brought the planet into the Anthropocene era, characterized by strong ecological imbalances. The future of humanity will require more and more energy, but in a sustainable way, within a circular economy approach. Lamberti then continued his discussion focusing on the importance of hydrogen as a new source of energy; he explained that the hydrogen energy is among the most promising solutions for storing energy produced from renewable sources. H2Boat, is a spin-off of University of Genoa, born within the Department of Mechanical Engineering DIME and they work together on the technology transfer. H2Boat was born out of the desire to concretely realize its ideas at an industrial level, always maintaining the innovative and enterprising spirit that characterizes the university activity.Among his projects, Lamberti is researching and developing innovative solutions in order to introduce hydrogen technology on the market and make it available in every sector and to engineer energy systems for sailboats and motorboats, with the intention to start a successful entrepreneurial initiative able to contribute to the clearance of fuel cell and hydrogen technology in the nautical/naval world and beyond. The launch product of H2Boat is the Energy Pack, an energy storage system produced from renewable sources for sailboats. H2Boat Energy Pack is a system that uses hydrogen technology for autonomous pleasure boats – in particular sailboats – from the on-board electrical...
  • 30 September 2019

    Blockchain, AI and Sharing

    By Lisanne Huizing English Version Due to the urbanization phenomenon, more people are going to move to cities. This will lead to more congestion of traffic, more pollution, and a necessity for more resources in cities among others. We will need more of everything than we have right now, in order to generate food and products. Resources are not endless, and they will become scarce in the future. “Smart Cities” have to solve this problem of rapid movement of goods, people and capital. By integrating technology, both cities’ and citizens’ behaviors can be understood. People can become involved and empowered by giving control over resources to more stakeholders by combining circular and smart technologies. It will give citizens the possibility to more actively govern their own resources at a lower geographical scale. Adaptive systems will be very beneficial for our future needs. Sharing & Circular Economy  With the Sharing Economy, a new phenomenon has arisen and it provides opportunities to redesign urban planning and access to locally shared resources. This will create a shift from possession-based, to a service-based economy. In order to use less resources in a growing and more demanding society, it will become necessary to make better use of the capacity of resources that is already existing.  When you look at a car that you only use in the weekends, for example, by sharing this with other people, it can also be used during the week. Once the car is optimally used and it comes to the end of its lifecycle, you can move towards the next step; circularity.  Although the Sharing Economy and Circular Economy are two different elements, they are connected. Because where the Sharing Economy ends, the Circular Economy begins. Together, they influence the taking shape of practices and optimization of processes. Cities can play a...
  • 9 June 2019

    Cleantech

    English Version In the common imagination, technology and environment can be seen as in contrast. On the one hand, the manufacturing industry with its energy-intensive production processes, which consume enormous amounts of resources, introduces toxic substances in exchange for air. On the other hand, the environment is seen as an element to be preserved and defended. The term technology itself, however, indicates the most efficient and economical use of available goods and tools. This is why it is not an oxymoron to talk about Cleantech, clean technologies, although it can be complex to define its fields of action in an exact manner. Cleantech: clean technology without borders The concept of Cleantech is difficult to define. If it is true that in a theoretical level it is a rather simple concept when you go into it, the possibilities become practically endless. In Cleantech, we can include all the innovations, regarding processes and products, that limit or completely eliminate the negative environmental impact of human action. We can talk about Cleantech when we are faced with technologies that deal with: • Collection and recycle of waste • Production of electricity from renewable sources • Rationalization of transport • Optimization of energy consumption • Reduction of packaging volumes • Limitation of resources used in the production process • Cutting emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere. In a Circular Economy perspective, Cleantech can, therefore, become any technology that limits energy; optimize their production and consumption processes; prevents waste eventually produced. In our analysis, we will focus on technologies that provide innovative energy production and storage. Artificial intelligence Forbes has dedicated to the world of new technologies for the creation of clean energy an article on the possible trends for 2019. Among the 6 trends that could emerge this year, the newspaper cites Artificial Intelligence,...
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