Here at SOFI our desire to fight climate change, to create a cleaner, more sustainable future is what drives us, and our support of solar fuels. But it’s easy to forget that along the way, research, development, and certainly manufacturing, can be energy intensive and can harm the environment.
One lab in the UK is trying to change that.
The University of Nottingham recently announced that it plans to build a carbon neutral research laboratory. The lab, co-funded by GlaxoSmithKline, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and the Wolfson Trust, will be BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum – the highest standards in the world for sustainable buildings. Numerous sustainable features will help the building earn enough carbon credits to offset its construction in approximately 25 years, making it carbon neutral.
The building will track energy and water usage in all its labs. Maybe this will spur a little friendly competition between researchers – who can be the most efficient? It will also feature rooftop solar panels, heat and power from a combined unit powered by burning pelletized fisheries waste, and an electric vehicle charging station.
You may be wondering, what’s all the fuss about sustainable chemistry? Is it really that unsustainable? Well, it’s not a coal-fired power plant, but it could use some cleaning up. A good example is the fume hood. It’s a safety essential and critical part of any chemistry lab because it prevents a scientist from breathing any dangerous or toxic vapors that may be released during a chemical reaction. It also happens to be extremely energy intensive. According to the U.S. DOE, fume hoods consume about 1 gigawatt of energy in California alone, or about as much energy as 750,000 homes would use.
“This is super exciting to me,” says Amanda Smeigh, SOFI’s program manager. “As a former bench chemist, who was, and still is, trying to save the world, we put little thought into how much energy and resources we waste in trying to ‘solve the problem.’”