Materials.Business Weekly ⚙️

January 26, 2021

Quote of the week:

“When you are enthusiastic about what you do, you feel this positive energy. It is straightforward.” — Paulo Coelho, Brazilian writer (1947).

From The Editor's Corner



Energy Consumption and Carbon Footprint
Our planet is powered by solar energy. All the changes that happen every day, from evolution to chemical reactions and biosynthesis to normal energy-consuming processes, and even life, happen thanks to the sun rays arriving from our primary energy source. This energy that “bathes” the Earth is variable and currently is increasing due to solar activity and thus is producing some of the effects of global warming. Nevertheless, Sandia’s estimations show that the average flux of sun rays striking the globe is 174.7 W.m-2. Subsequently, the theoretical potential of solar power is 89.300 TW. In other words, the sun’s power output that reaches the Earth in two hours is higher than the energy consumed by humanity in one year, which is or somewhere around 15 TW (with an estimated increase 2- and 3-fold until 2050 and 2100, respectively). Such power is equivalent to the solar energy received in an area roughly the size of Venezuela. In conclusion, the problem is not the amount of available energy but rather how solar energy is captured and managed. It is a growing concern for humankind due to conventional energy source depletion and growing costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and global warming.

​Energy is the driving force for human development. Humanity consumes power for most industrial activities, including refining minerals, steel manufacturing, and cement production. Other non-industrial activities are also energetically consuming, such as transportation and day-to-day home activities, from charging electronic devices to cooking. It is essential to know where all this energy comes from. About 85% of the energy we consume is generated by burning fossil fuels that produce more than 33.5 Gt CO2 per year. A person in Europe is estimated to produce a carbon footprint of 7.3 ton CO2, whereas, in the United States, the value is close to 16.2 ton CO2. This too high carbon footprint has been continuously rising due to more energy demand, directly linked to the increasing human population. If humanity keeps this growing at this pace, an energy transition to a lower carbon footprint is mandatory.

Decarbonization of the Energy Sector

To meet the Paris Climate agreement of decreasing global warming, an effect from burning fossil fuels, and keeping the increase of global average temperature below 2 °C is everyone's goal. Several strategies are plausible to decrease CO2 emissions. As demonstrated in the following article published in the journal Nature, the reduction in traveling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and forced confinement because of lockdowns was one of the key contributors to the global decline of CO2 emissions during this period (March to April 2020). This is an indicator that one strategy should include thinking about how much and how often we travel so that people can begin to drive less or rely more on public transport. A second strategy would be to have responsible energy consumption at home. Heating, lighting, and appliances are needed frequently every day, and so small changes in the way we use them can make a big difference. Therefore, it is recommended to turn off the heating when it is not needed or perhaps to use a programmable or smart thermostat, turn off lights and appliances when they are not used, and use LED lights instead of incandescent lamps. A third strategy would be to produce Renewable energy. Renewable energy is referred to any source of energy that comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished. For example, sunlight keeps shining and or wind keeps blowing, even if their availability depends on time and weather. Additionally, when used, the energy they produce has little to zero environmental impact. The company DNV-GL predicted that in 2050, renewable energy would account for 66% of global electricity production. Furthermore, they identified a combination of measurements to meet the global warming target lower than 2 °C, two of which are directly related to having 50% of the electricity produced worldwide in 2030 by renewable energy sources. The only condition to meet to reach this goal is to increase solar power by more than ten times to 5 TW and wind power by five times to 3 TW of installed capacity. Consequently, the case of Solar Photovoltaics –PV- is one of the best scenarios for clean energy production, where solar energy is directly converted into electricity by using solar panels with non-CO2 byproducts.

Making Solar Panels Last Longer
​Accelerated solar PV deployment could lead to significant emission reductions of 4.9 Gt CO₂ by 2050, representing 21% of the total emission mitigation potential in the energy sector. To summarize, the drivers for PV usage have been well known for many years. However, the tremendous initial barrier to overcome was the cost of the energy produced. This limitation was highlighted in 2008 when the National Academy of Engineering – NAE, of the USA, launched the “Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century” with input from an international group of leading technological thinkers, who identified 14 goals for improving life on the planet. One of the goals was to “Make solar energy economical.” Scientists and Engineers are answering those challenges effectively. Research groups have come up with relatively cheap polymeric semiconductors. Simultaneously, others like CIDEMAT have gone deeper into a more promising technology based on hybrid perovskites that, combined with traditional solar panels based on silicon, can improve performance. Moreover, currently, it is possible to say that solar panel based on silicon is a relatively mature technology, with a reasonably leveled cost of electricity (LCOE). Between 2010 and 2019, the PV price dropped by 82% to about USD $0.068 kW.h-1. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA, by 2025, the LCOE for Geothermal and Hydroelectric will be USD $37.27 and $39.54 per MWh, respectively, while solar PV will have a value of USD $32.8 per MWh. Right now, we can see an “explosion” of solar PV. For example, the company Pacific Gas & Electric in California, USA, plans to electrify thousands of properties in the coming decade, generating over 30.000 new jobs as “solar installers.” In the next few years, the European Union will support giant ocean floating solar PV farms, looking for higher efficiencies and more recyclable components.

​Right now, the most significant technological and economic barrier to overcome is one that concerns access to adequate infrastructure. Materials, parts, and other pieces of equipment work well with the Circular Economy drivers. So nowadays, solar panels are expected to operate for a system life of 25 years or more. However, this does not mean they stop producing energy after 25 years. It just means that energy production will significantly decline (generally below 80% of the initial value). Therefore, a solar panels’ lifetime is a considerable aspect of energy production. Even though 25 years is enough time for any technology, the reality is that a longer life will give lower LCOE and less waste, which is beneficial for both the massification of the technology and the environment. Other components in a PV installation, such as batteries, should also be considered an element with a very short lifetime (generally between 3 to 5 years) if the produced energy is not immediately consumed. However, many solar farms and residential installations are now injecting electricity into their respective grid, thus partially resolving this problem.

Several aspects must be considered to make solar panels last longer and produce more energy. One of the most important is the soiling caused by the accumulation of sand, dust, and other particles that obscure the PV module's surface. These particles can reduce the produced electricity up to 20% over a year and is more evident in arid and semi-arid areas. Therefore, panels have to be cleaned regularly by hand or by robots when the PV plants are in small and large areas, respectively. Additional aspects to consider are solar panel failure and degradation. In the first case, the solar panel stops producing any energy, which can be due to glass breakage on the panel or a short circuit that can cause the panel to burn. For degradation, the encapsulated adhesive (ethylene vinyl acetate-EVA) discoloration becomes the most dominant mode of deterioration, followed by delamination of the adhesive well and hot spots caused by the solder bond failure or cracked cells. On one side, simple cleaning and constant monitoring of the solar panels could reduce failure, produce more energy, and increase the installation lifetime. Developing new materials for more stable adhesives and better soldering materials is an ongoing approach that could also make solar panels last longer. The integrity of solar PV farms and installations is a serious matter of concern, and so a lot of additional efforts by scientists and engineers are required.

Remember: Protection of materials and equipment is a profitable business!

Guest Editor: Daniel Ramirez

Substitute Professor

School of Materials Engineering

University of Antioquia, Medellin - Colombia

[email protected]

Materials Biz News

Rewarding technological innovation towards sustainable growth

The Energy Institute has launched a call for free nominations to its yearly awards on energy developments. It is an excellent opportunity for recognizing efforts by the community of corrosionists and materials scientists, and engineers to improve the quality of life through innovation in energy handling. The included categories are:

- Access to Energy

- Energy Leader

- Energy Management

- Environment

- Health and Safety

- Innovative Technologies

- Low Carbon

- Public Engagement

- Talent, Development, and Learning

- Young Energy Professional of the Year


​Triple Helix embraces 3D manufacturing

The Advanced Manufacturing Lab of the University of Guelph and the Mohawk College’s Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre have partnered with the private company CGL Manufacturing, Ontario – Canada, to develop ductile iron powder mix for 3D printing. Funding is from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). In the beginning, the purpose is to produce prototypes faster by powder bed fusion, keeping composition and mechanical properties, as a support for the conventional process of casting of machined castings, components, fabrications, and assemblies.

Read More

Open innovation for asset integrity in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Henkel Tech VENTURES has invested in the start-up Feelit, a company founded in 2017 and based in Haifa, Israel, devoted to applying nanotechnology and sensorics for predictive analytics. Feelit has developed a sensor technology or “electronic skin” for alerting and predict maintenance requirements in manufacturing assets. As a result, Henkel aims to scale the technology and strengthen its maintenance, repair, and overhaul portfolio useful in steel mills, car factories, mining equipment, or power turbines.

Learn More


​​A leader for the Circular Economy Philadelphia, USA

The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, is looking for a Managing Director of the Center for Sustainable Separations of Metals – CSSM. It is a Center supported by the National Science Foundation aimed to research metals recycling and sustainability. Its specific goals are to reduce energy consumption, pollution, and greenhouse gases providing alternative approaches to unsustainable and unethical metal supply chains. Duties related to the position include the support and development of administrative, education, assessment, and outreach efforts associated with the transformative and innovative research on the fundamental chemistry that can improve the recovery of metals from post-consumer products. Basic requirements are a Bachelor's degree and 5 to 7 years of experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Backgrounds in chemistry (B.A./B.S. or Ph.D., Ph.D. preferred), grant writing experience, and familiarity with NSF funding policies are desirable.

Maintenance applying data science. Twente, Netherlands

Dr. Ir. Tiedo Tinga, Full Professor of Applied Mechanics at the University of Twente, Netherlands, offers a post-doc researcher position. The open vacancy is part of the project "Smart Sensoring and Predictive Maintenance Steel Manufacturing" – SUPREME project, co-funded by Tata Steel. The job’s primary purpose is to contribute to the confluence's synergy between knowledge and backgrounds on predictive maintenance and big data for the expected results.

Contact Prof. Tinga: [email protected]

Good fortune in your entrepreneurship.

Three simple and powerful pieces of advice on how to pave the way to success in your entrepreneurial efforts are extracted from Psychology studies about how to build proper conditions for positive results and diminish risk. According to the author of the paper, “the secret of luck in three simple steps” is:

- Keep your mind and eyes open. Look around permanently, and try to perceive the world from several perspectives, with a kaleidoscopic vision.

- See the bright side of things. Problems are challenges. A crisis is an opportunity for innovation. The pathway must be guided by possibilities, not by difficulties.

- Do something extraordinary (at least) once a week. Break routine in your daily life. Exercise your mind permanently, challenging it with small things.

Networking & Knowledge Exchange

“Shaping the Future of Energy” Virtual

The title above is the 23rd World Petroleum Congress motto to be held in Houston, Texas, USA, from December 5th to 9th of 2021. As a prelude to the meeting, a series of online discussions between global leaders is being organized. The series’ forthcoming event will be dealing with “Innovating to Reinvent the Oil & Gas Industry for the Post-Pandemic Future and the New Energy System.” Invited panelists are Jeff Miller (Chairman, President, and CEO, Halliburton) and Mike Wirth (Chairman and CEO, Chevron). Moderator will be Muqsit Ashraf (Senior Managing Director and Global Energy Sector Lead, Accenture).

Date: Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021.

Time: 10:00 (CST, USA).

Take a Corrosion course! Bogota

You can cover the basic concepts to technical subjects about preventing and controlling corrosion problems, including issues directly related to your company’s concerns. ACICOR (AMPP Colombia, formerly NACE Colombia) offers a list of courses given by high-level experts. Further than improving your skills, you will obtain an international certification required by most companies worldwide or bonus in many other situations. Your CV would be highlighted with such kind of formation. Do not wait for applying and start now to get new benefits for your future professional performance! The following are the courses programmed during the next months:

- CP1 - Cathodic Protection Tester, Bogota, February 22nd to 26th, 2021.

- CIP1 - Coating Inspector Level 1, Bogota, March 1st to 5th, 2021.

- CIP2 - Coating Inspector Level 2, Bogota, April 12th to 16th, 2021.

- CP2 - Cathodic Protection Technician, Bogota, April 19th to 23rd, 2021.

- CP# - Cathodic Protection Technologist, Bogota, May 24th to 28th, 2021.

Fracture matters. Virtual

Prof. Luca Susmel, Editor-in-Chief of “Theoretical and Applied Fracture Mechanics” - TAFMEC, supported by Elsevier, invites you to attend a series of free webinars on the subject. The next presentation about “Smeared vs. discrete approaches in computational fracture mechanics “ will be given by Prof. René de Borst from the University of Sheffield - UK. Prof. de Borst is an internationally renowned expert on computational mechanics and numerical methods in engineering, currently dealing with topics like fracture in porous media.

Date: Friday, January 29th, 2021.

Time: 9:00 (GMT).

​Photo by Antonio Garcia on Unsplash