Nov 13, 2020

Praise the Sun - The Key to Zero-waste Industries?

Sam Scane
3 min
UoM researchers have found a potential leap toward greener manufacturing...

Chemical engineers at the University of Manchester (UoM) in the UK have been able to successfully manipulate carbon nitride by using artificial sunlight to synthesise fluorine-based molecules, the building blocks of many agrochemical and pharmaceutical applications, via a process known as ‘photocatalysis’, potentially setting them on the path to the ‘holy grail’ of zero-waste industry manufacturing. 

Following the new findings which were published on November 11th in the journal Science Advances, Dr Carmine D’Agostino at UoM, who collaborated with The University of Trieste (Italy), the CNR Institute of Materials for Electronics and Magnetism (Italy), and the CIC biomaGUNE (Spain), said “The chemical industry is a fundamental pillar for economic and technological development. Yet, it is often associated with environmental pollution and climate change. In recent years, efforts are being made to shift the current approach to industrial chemistry towards a greener, more sustainable and zero-waste approach.” 

A few items to note here are the specific definitions of things such as ‘carbon nitride’, ‘photocatalysis’, ‘fluorine’ and why synthesising fluorine-based molecules is so essential to a potentially greener manufacturing industry. 

Carbon nitride itself is a metal-free, non-toxic solid made of Earth-abundant elements of carbon and nitrogen, and researchers have discovered that, through simple manipulations of this solid, they are able to exploit artificial solar light for the synthesis of organic molecules containing fluorine. 

Fluorine itself is a chemical element critical for the production of nuclear material for power plants, the insulation of electric towers and is used in the production of plastic. 

The concept known as ‘photocatalysis’ is where artificial light or sunlight is able to trigger chemical reactions at ambient conditions, which would otherwise require more energy-intensive processes. The process itself is not too dissimilar to natural photosynthesis used by plants to harness the sun's energy. However, the materials for creating this process in an artificial environment tends to be very expensive and not very efficient, making it difficult to quantify as viable on an industrial scale. 

So what does this mean for the manufacturing world, and how would it lead us to a zero-waste industry? 

For starters, the industrialisation of the photocatalytic process would potentially mean that we, as a society, wouldn’t need to rely on fossil fuels as a primary source of energy in industrial productions by providing cleaner and most sustainable chemicals. 

“The team at The University of Manchester led by Dr Carmine D’Agostino, together with Luke Forster (PhD student) and Dr Graziano Di Carmine (Research Associate) played a pivotal role in unravelling, through the use of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) techniques, the fundamental changes in carbon nitride properties responsible for the increased efficiency of the nano-engineered materials.” 

Dr Carmine went on to state “This new exploitation of solar light for the synthesis of useful chemicals is a very promising technology, yet very challenging. In particular, the search of non-toxic, widely available and economically viable materials, able to harness solar energy for efficient chemical conversion holds the Holy Grail for such photochemical conversions.”

As such, a discovery of this magnitude could see the world change as we know it, and very much so for the better. With more sustainable methods of creating alternative energy sources cropping up more and more each year, it seems that we’re very much on the horizon of a breakthrough that could see the landscape of industrial production become greener than ever. 

Share article

May 10, 2021

Lion Electric to Construct US EV Manufacturing Facility

Georgia Wilson
3 min
Lion Electric |Smart Manufacturing | Sustainable Manufacturing | Electric Vehicles | Electric School Buses | Electric Medium and Heavy Duty Vehicles | Sustainability | Technology | Freight | Transportation
Lion Electric announces its selection of Illinois to construct its all-electric medium and heavy-duty urban vehicle manufacturing facility...

Who is Lion Electric?

Founded in 2008, Lion Electric is an innovative manufacturer of all-electric, zero-emissions, medium and heavy-duty urban vehicles. Lion Electric designs, manufactures, and assembles all components for its vehicles that have unique features specifically adapted to the users and their needs. “We believe that transitioning to all-electric vehicles will lead to major improvements in our society, environment and overall quality of life,” believes Lion Electric. 

Lion Electric’s new Illinois Manufacturing Facility

Just two months after announcing plans to construct a battery manufacturing plant and innovation centre in Quebec, Lion Electric is expanding its locations further, selecting Joliet, Illinois for its new manufacturing facility in the US.

The new facility is said to “represent the largest dedicated production site for zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the US,” as well as being the company’s biggest footprint in the market. The new facility will give Lion Electric the capacity to meet increasing demand for ‘Made in America’ zero-emission vehicles and bring production closer to customers. 

It is expected that the first vehicles off the production line will be in the second half of 2022.

“Lion’s historic investment to bring its largest production facility to Illinois represents not only a win for our communities, but a strong step forward in our work to expand clean energy alternatives and the jobs they bring to our communities,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. 

“The new Joliet facility will put Illinois at the forefront of a national movement to transition to zero-emission vehicle use, advancing our own goals of putting one million of these cars on the road by 2030. In Illinois, we know that a clean energy economy is about more than just vehicles – it’s about healthier communities and jobs for those who live there. We are excited to welcome Lion to the Land of Lincoln and look forward to their future success here.”

Lion Electric’s Agreement with the Government of Illinois

Over the next three years, Lion Electric will invest a minimum of US$70mn into Illinois. The new facility - totalling 900,000 square feet - is expected to create a minimum of 745 clean energy direct jobs in the next three years, and have an annual production capacity of up to 20,000 all electric buses and trucks.

Scaling electric bus production and decarbonising freight and transportation

As the US moves to electrifying its school buses, the additional production capacity at the facility will help Lion Electric to scale its electric bus production, as well as produce an increased volume of heavy-duty zero-emission trucks to help governments and operators in the US further the decarbonisation of freight and transportation fleets.

“Lion is the leader in electric school buses and has always been dedicated to the U.S. market, and our commitment to be close to our customers is one of the core values we have as a company. This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy,” said Marc Bedard, CEO and Founder of Lion.

“I also want to acknowledge the crucial role that P33 and Intersect Illinois, civic groups committed to developing developing a long-term roadmap for the local tech industry, played in connecting Lion with the Chicago area’s business and civic community to help further commercial traction, as well as engagement with key workforce and supplier partners.” 

Image source

Share article