image: Pint of Science Festival in St. Gallen on 23th and 24th of May.

Powerplants, cars and trucks with internal combustion engines, gas distribution networks or oil drilling platforms contain large amounts of materials, but they will become obsolete in a renewable future. However, to get there we need materials and structures for building up the required renewable infrastructure. How can circular strategies help accelerate the transition with minimal environmental impacts and how can they be best applied to the soon-to-be obsolete fossil infrastructure?

To answer this question, Empas Technology and Society Lab addresses the environmental benefits and potentials for repurposing materials and functions from current fossil stocks within the frame of the CircEUlar project. Looking at material stocks in the fossil infrastructure, we find large amounts of steel, sand and gravel, concrete, but also copper and aluminum. Especially steel has a high potential, for example in the construction of wind turbines. Because steel recycling uses much less energy and generates lower CO2 emissions compared to production from ore, the environmental impact of electricity from wind can be significantly lowered when using repurposed steel. Thus, since the energy investments needed for building wind farms are lowered, as is the energy payback time of wind energy production.

Hauke Schlesier recently presented these ideas at the public event “Pint of Science” in St. Gallen organized inter alia by Empa, where the audience much appreciated that repurposing fossil infrastructure can help to ensure beer supply in the future! “Pint of Science” is an international festival for science communication and took place in nine locations in Switzerland this year.

By Hauke Schlesier – Empa