With increasing global uncertainties and finite supplies of raw materials and energy resources on the planet, the search is on for alternative renewable resources to close the gap between supply and demand. Biofuels and bio-based materials are a promising solution with strong potential in this context. In order to make the best use of this solution, new technologies are needed to produce biofuels and bio-based materials from different feedstock’s using variable and combined methods. One of the most interesting and important questions to be taken into consideration when developing new technologies is whether a technology is sustainable or not. We must think about the impacts of a new technology on the environment and ensure that we are not solving one environmental problem by creating a new problem that will affect future generations.
The goal of my research is to investigate how to develop new technologies for the production of biofuels and bio-based materials in a sustainable way. A unique feature of my work is that I employ system analysis thinking for assessing up to 16 environmental impacts, using a combination of experimental, analytical and environmental modelling approaches. I also expand my research horizons and enter collaborations to assess the economic benefits and social aspects of new technologies. This combination of approaches helps to address the three pillars of sustainable development (environmental, economic, and social). My work thereby contributes to SLU’s vision to “play a key role in development for sustainable life, based on science and education”.
In this docent lecture, I describe how “life cycle assessment”, an internationally standardized methodology, can be applied to evaluate the impacts of new technologies in the different environmental categories and to identify the impact categories most affected, and why. I show how work in collaborative multidisciplinary teams can be used to explore ways to reduce or mitigate different impacts and deliver an eco-friendly technology. Finally, I outline how to pursue work on this interesting topic by exploring alternative technologies and feedstock’s for sustainable biofuel production, which can enhance SLU’s scientific role in achieving development for sustainable life.