Determining whether a technology is really “clean” or not is far from easy. It requires a holistic approach, and not just focusing on its performance during the production or use phase.

“Take electric vehicles, for example,” says Enrico Benetto, who heads the Environmental Sustainability Assessment and Circularity (SUSTAIN) unit of LIST’s Environmental Research and Innovation department. “Although their adoption is a major step towards cleaner mobility, different aspects all along their lifecycle need to be carefully considered when designing their deployment. They will only generate significant environmental gains if the electricity used comes from renewable sources, for example. Batteries should be reused at the end of their lives, for example to store renewable energy in buildings, and potential social issues related to the extraction of raw materials have to be transparently addressed.”

Sustainable hydrogen production

Enrico Benetto of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) speaks about sustainaiblity by desingTwo of LIST’s current flagship research projects focus on making hydrogen production easier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly. The institute is working on innovative techniques for the fractionation of water molecules – composed of oxygen and hydrogen – in order to recover the hydrogen component directly, without the need for costly and energy-intensive catalysis processes. LIST is also developing special materials capable of capturing the solar energy needed to implement the fractionation of water molecules by a photo-electrochemical reaction.

Hydrogen can be an important source of energy in the future.

“Hydrogen can be an important source of energy in the future, in particular for aviation and maritime transportation, but current production methods are dependent on non-renewable energies,” comments Dr Benetto. “The development of these new techniques powered by solar energy can be a significant step forward when steered by a ‘sustainable by design’ approach.” The objective is to extend this emerging technology on an industrial scale by 2030.

Ensuring a positive impact

Defining holistic models for evaluating clean technologies is an important task for Dr Benetto and his team. Around 10 members of his units work as expert evaluators for the Solar Impulse Foundation, which is labelling 1,000 solutions that can protect the environment in a profitable way. LIST’s role is to ensure that the labelled technologies will really generate a positive impact throughout their complete lifecycle, thereby fostering the transition to a more sustainable society.

The team is also working on an evaluation matrix for characterising clean technologies at different levels of maturity in order to help financial investors assess their environmental friendliness and business potential. The work contributes to European and national sustainable finance initiatives, the objective of which is to channel private investment towards the transition to a climate-neutral economy.

Adapting user behaviour: the data approach

Although clean technologies are essential to achieve the EU’s objective of becoming climate-neutral by 2050, Dr Benetto is convinced that they are not enough. “We, as individuals and consumers, need to understand the impact of our use of technology and adapt our behaviour. Companies also have to better understand how their products really are being used, as reality might differ considerably from the design requirements.”

We need to understand the impact of our use of technology and adapt our behaviour.

LIST is in the starting blocks for developing “digital twin” models and apps allowing users to be better informed and to share data, in a fair and secure way, with technology developers on how they actually use their products in everyday life. “I’m certain that client-centric technology development with a participatory approach, which involves users already from the design phase, will become increasingly important. This will be essential to sustain the energy and sustainability transitions in the next decade.”

Photo: Laurent Antonelli

Read more

Luxembourg remains a strong innovator


Luxembourg remains the 7th best-performing EU country in the 2022 edition of the European Innovation Scoreboard and continues to stand out for its highly attractive research system.
Read more

Previsionz expands to Luxembourg


German-born Previsionz is one of the recent additions to Luxembourg’s data ecosystem. Supported by Luxinnovation, the data analytics company has chosen Luxembourg as its springboard for international growth.
Read more

Luxembourg 13th most competitive country in the world


Luxembourg is ranked as the world’s 13th most competitive country in the 2022 edition of the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking. The country ranks 1st in the world for its economic performance.
Read more

Luxembourg among top 10 countries for post-COVID FDI recovery


Foreign direct investment in Luxembourg increased by 85% during the first half of 2022, compared to the first 6 months of 2019.
Read more

Luxembourg economy 3rd most resilient in the world


Luxembourg remains the world's 3rd most resilient economy in the 2022 FM Global Resilience Index. The country even strengthens its global score compared to last year.
Read more

Resources all news