Synthetic Materials That Will Shape the Future
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Synthetic Materials That Will Shape the Future

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The following content is sponsored by HydroGraph

Synthetic Materials infographic

Synthetic Materials That Will Shape the Future

Synthetic materials have been in our lives for a considerable time now. Since the introduction of nylon in the 1940s, we have used synthetic materials in almost every aspect of our lives.

We have synthetic materials everywhere—from garments and medicine to sportswear and tactical gear. So what are synthetic materials anyway?

Materials produced by humans in laboratories or industries with chemical processes that do not commonly occur in nature are known as synthetic materials.

In the above infographic from HydroGraph, we look at the synthetic materials that have the potential to change the future.

Five Synthetic Materials with the Power to Change the World

Chemists have discovered new catalysts and developed new synthetic routes to create materials with really specific applications.

Today, synthetic materials have gone beyond everyday household items to shape several major industries. Here are five types that will be instrumental in the future:

1. Bioplastics

As we are often reminded, plastics do not degrade and are visible sources of environmental pollution. To complicate things further, the building blocks of these materials, which we call monomers, are historically derived from crude oil, a non-renewable resource.

But that is now changing. Bioplastics are plastics that either: originate from a renewable resource, are biodegradable, or are both. Bioplastics represent an evolution within the plastics marketplace due to their benefits as new applications and technologies are developed.

2. Plastic Electronics

Initially discovered in the late 1970s, plastic electronics represent an expanding technology that brings us a myriad of products incorporating flexible and transparent electronic circuits.

Rather than relying on conventional, rigid, and brittle silicon chips to process information, plastic technology relies on novel organic materials on which the coding can be printed.

Current state-of-the-art microchip factories are about the size of three football fields and require purpose-built facilities. In contrast, plastic electronic circuits have the potential to be created in small laboratories.

3. Self-Healing Polymers

Self-healing is a well-known phenomenon in nature: a broken bone merges after some time, and if the skin is damaged, the wound will stop bleeding and heals again.

This concept can be mimicked to create polymeric materials with the ability to regenerate after they have suffered degradation or wear.

Inspired by biological systems, new materials can now heal in response to traditionally irreversible damage. Current research in this field shows how different self-healing mechanisms can be adapted to produce even more versatile materials.

4. Smart and Reactive Polymers

Gels and synthetic rubbers can easily adjust their shape in response to changes in their surroundings, like temperature or acidity.

This turns out to be incredibly useful in designing intelligent materials for sensors, drug delivery devices, and many other applications.

Mechanophores, for example, are molecular units that can alter the properties of a polymer when subjected to mechanical forces. These could have any number of industrial applications, especially through the incorporation of self-healing technology.

5. Nanocomposites and Nanomaterials

Nanomaterials are synthetic composites that are less than 100 nm in length. They are clustered together in multiple rows to produce an incredibly light and flexible, yet durable synthetic material.

Due to these properties, nanomaterials have several essential applications in aviation and space, chemicals, and aeronautics, as well as in products related to optics, solar hydrogen, fuel cells, batteries, sensors, and power generation.

Also, given that one of the most pressing challenges of our time is finding alternative, environmentally-friendly energy sources, nanomaterials are a crucial component in applications such as solar cells, paints, and other applications in green chemistry.

The Strength Of Graphene Nanomaterials

Graphene has emerged as one of the most promising nanomaterials because of its unique combination of exceptional properties.

This disruptive technology could open up new markets and even replace existing technologies or materials. No other material has the breadth of graphene’s superlatives, making it ideal for countless applications.

From medicine, electronics, and defense, to desalination, art restoration, and alternative fuels, the impact of graphene research is substantial.

Substantial research and production of nanomaterials like graphene are already on their way. HydroGraph, through its patented HydroGraph process, has been able to create a highly efficient and low impact process to mass-produce graphene powder.

Click here to learn more about HydroGraph and its wide array of product offerings.

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ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage

ESG controversies can damage a company’s value, but ESG data may be able to help manage this risk. What are other reasons for using ESG data?

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ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage

Data is key to the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) revolution. Access to granular ESG data can help boost transparency for market participants. Unfortunately, 63% of U.S. and European asset managers say a lack of quantitative data inhibits their ESG implementation.

Being clear on the potential application of this data is equally important.

  • Investors and banks can use ESG data for risk assessment, to spot opportunities, and to push companies for change.
  • Companies can publish their own ESG data, quantify progress on their ESG goals, and use data to inform decisions.
  • Policymakers can use ESG data to inform regulatory frameworks and measure policy effectiveness.

This graphic from ICE, the second in a three part series on the ESG toolkit, explores four primary motivations of ESG data users.

1. Right Thing

The objective: Having a positive social or environmental impact.

For investors, this can involve screening out companies that conflict with their values and selecting companies that align with their ESG objectives.

As another example, it can involve comparing the social impact of municipal bonds. One way investors can measure social impact is through scores that quantify the potential socioeconomic need of an area, using metrics like poverty and education levels. Here are the social impact scores for three actual municipal bonds issued in Florida.

StateBond IssuerSocial Impact Score
(Higher = larger potential impact)
FloridaIssuer #176.5
FloridaIssuer #266.6
FloridaIssuer #343.2

Issuer #1’s bond is projected to have a community impact that is nearly twice as high/positive as Issuer #3’s bond.

For companies, doing the right thing can include assessing their progress on ESG goals and benchmarking themselves to peers. For example, gender and racial representation is a growing area of focus.

2. Risk

The objective: Managing ESG risks, such as climate and reputational risks.

For investors, this can involve back-testing or analysis around specific risk events before they materialize. Here are the risk profiles of two actual municipal bonds in California. The shown bonds are practically identical in many ways, except their wildlife score.

 Issuer #1Issuer #2
Current Coupon Rate5.0%5.0%
Maturity DateAug 01, 2048August 01, 2048
S&P RatingAAAA
Price to Date (Call Date)Aug 01, 2027Aug 01, 2027
Price122.0122.0
Yield1.0%1.0%
Wildfire Score (Higher = more risk)3.62.7

Managing ESG risk can also involve analyzing a company’s policies and governance for weaknesses. This is important as an ESG controversy can have long-lasting effects on the valuation of a company.

In one study, companies with ESG controversies dropped more than 10% in value relative to the S&P 500. They hadn’t fully recovered a year after the incident.

3. Revenue

The objective: Targeting outperformance through ESG analysis.

Selecting companies with strong ESG data can align with long-term growth trends and may help boost performance. For heavy emitting industries, research indicates that European companies with lower emissions trade at much higher valuations. The chart below shows companies’ price-to-book ratio relative to the Stoxx 600* sector median.

 UtilitiesEnergyMaterials
Above Median Emission Intensity (Bad)1.91.12.0
Below Median Emissions Intensity (Good)2.71.92.1

*The Stoxx 600 Index represents large, mid and small capitalization companies across 17 countries of the European region: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Energy companies with low emissions trade at a valuation nearly two times higher than energy companies with high emissions.

4. Regulation

The objective: Understanding and complying with relevant ESG regulation.

The International Sustainability Standards Board has announced a global reporting proposal aligned with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). In addition, a growing number of jurisdictions will require organizational reporting that aligns with the TCFD.

  • Brazil
  • European Union
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • UK

Not only that, a European Union regulation known as Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) came into effect in 2021. It seeks greater transparency in disclosures from firms marketing investment products. Even firms located outside the EU could be impacted if they serve EU customers. In total, the market cap of these non-EU companies exposed to SFDR amounts to $3.2 trillion.

Matching ESG Data with Motivation

There will be growing demand for transparent data as ESG investing flourishes. To remain competitive, investors, policymakers, and companies need access to ESG data that meets their unique objectives.

In Part 3 of the ESG Toolkit series sponsored by ICE, we’ll look at key sustainability index types.

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The Hierarchy of Zero Waste

In a world that generates 2 billion tonnes of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Here are some strategies to help guide zero waste policies.

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The Hierarchy of Zero Waste

Many cities have set ambitious zero waste targets in the upcoming decades.

The idea is to have communities where waste generation is avoided, and products are shared, reused, or refurbished.

This graphic, sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies, shows the main strategies and hierarchy to guide zero waste policies.

What is Zero Waste?

In a world that generates approximately 2 billion tons of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Thus, countries and cities are increasing efforts to reduce or even eliminate waste when possible.

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as “the conservation of all resources  by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

Becoming a zero waste community, however, is a complex task.

Currently, Sweden recycles 99% of locally-produced waste and is considered the best country in the world when it comes to recycling and reusing waste. However, such results only came after almost 40 years of recycling and reuse policies.

In line with this, here are seven commonly accepted steps you can use to achieve zero waste:

1. Rethink, Redesign Products

The global population consumes 110 billion tons of materials each year, but only 8.6% is reused or recycled. In a zero waste society, single-use products are avoided and products are designed with sustainable practices and materials.

2. Reduce

Consumption must be planned carefully to reduce the unnecessary use of materials. Consumers must choose products that maximize the usable lifespan and opportunities for continuous reuse. Companies must minimize the quantity and toxicity of materials used.

3. Reuse

The value of products is maintained by reusing, repairing, or refurbishing for alternative uses.

4. Recycle

Products are diverted from waste streams and recirculated into use. Resilient local markets are developed, allowing the highest and best use of materials.

5. Material Recovery

Component materials like cement, metals, or asphalt are recovered from mixed waste and collected for other applications.

In the U.S. alone, around 12 million tons of asphalt shingle tear-off waste and installation scrap are generated from roof installation each year. Currently, more than 90% of this is discarded in landfills. This material can be repurposed to create new products like liquid asphalt, fiber, and aggregate.

6. Residuals Management

Waste is biologically stabilized and sent to responsibly managed landfills.

7. Unacceptable

The production of materials that are not recoverable and can negatively impact the environment must be avoided.

Reducing our Climate Impact

Reducing, recycling, and recovering materials can be a key part of a climate change strategy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production and use of goods, including food, products, and packaging.

Even though 100% zero waste may sound difficult to achieve in the near future, a zero waste approach is essential to reduce our impact on the environment.

Northstar Clean Technologies aims to become the leading recovery and reprocessing company for asphalt shingles in North America.

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