Symposium CT.2

Sustainable Chemistry, Materials and Resources for the City of the 2050s


Construction materials, resource efficiency, recycling, indoor and outdoor air quality, acoustic, energy efficiency, daylighting, smart cities, transportation, aeronautics, automotive chemistry, material science, environmental, energy, life cycle analysis.


Bernadette CHARLEUX (Saint-Gobain, Paris, FR), Stéphane DELALANDE (Groupe PSA, Paris, FR), Josef R. WUNSCH (Structural Materials & Systems, BASF, Ludwigshafen/Rhein, DE)


According to the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs [1], the world population is projected to be between 9.4 and 10 billion in 2050 with 80% of that in Asia and in Africa. At the same time the percentage of the population residing in urban areas is predicted to grow from 54 % in 2014 to 66% in 2050, and the number of megacities of more than 10 million inhabitants will also increase [2]. Asian and African cities will show the highest growth rates, with 90% of the projected 2.5 billion global increase in population by 2050 being localized in those cities. Furthermore, the overall number of people above 80 will grow globally to half a billion by 2050; meaning that the current population will be multiplied by a factor of three. The world is thus undergoing a huge transformation and everywhere the industries now have an added obligation of reducing their environmental impact. In light of that, the construction and transportation sectors must address several challenges. They have to simultaneously maximise energy and resource efficiency and maintain the life and environment quality for the inhabitants in the city. The chemists have to play a role in this objective of achieving sustainable solutions for cities. This is indeed the major aim of this symposium to present and discuss the most important developments in this field. Regarding the construction sector, the main goals are to develop new materials with low impact on the environment and on the resources, to decrease the carbon footprint of the manufacturing and construction processes, to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings (renovation and new construction), and to address both the quality of indoor environment and the safety. Achieving lightweight materials, using renewable resources and recycling construction materials are therefore important challenges to tackle. For everyone, comfortable indoor environment with healthy air, thermal comfort, acoustic comfort and daylight has to be taken into account in all places (homes, offices). Finally, safety is a main issue, including for instance fire resistance of the materials and reduction of toxic fumes, structural resistance toward seismic events and extreme climatic events. In the case of the automotive industry, the primary goal will always be to produce vehicles that are affordable and accessible to the general population. Thus, in a connected world, where autonomous cars play an important role, where the pressure of environmental regulations is high, and where there is a strong emphasis on safer vehicles, material science and chemistry will play a major role. In fact, the solutions to some of the challenges are already available with the technology we have today. However, the difficulties lie in scaling up the solutions for a mass production market. As a result, the problem still remains to be addressed and is an opportunity for the future. There are many areas where advances in chemistry will be necessary. Breakthroughs in lightweight material technologies will help to reduce vehicle mass; improvements in high performance biomaterials can reduce the lifecycle print of cars; electrochemical systems can be developed to replace the existing lithium technologies etc. This short description directly illustrates La Palice’s expression: “a vehicle of 1 ton is 1 000 kg of materials” and chemistry provides the buildings blocks for any new material. In parallel, both the aircraft and train transport industries face similar challenges in reducing their environmental footprint. For example, light weighting continues to be an active area of research as the industry tries to reduce mass while simultaneously improving comfort for the user. Furthermore, as the availability of fossil fuel based energy is decreasing, a lot of work is ongoing on diversifying electricity production. In all these areas, the common theme is that research in chemistry and material sciences will play a central role in developing the solutions.


[1] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP.241.

[2] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2014). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision, Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/352).