Sustainability and raw materials: do we have them enough?

  • Date: Apr 18, 2024
  • Time: 01:15 PM - 02:15 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Dr. Janez Zavašnik
  • Jozef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia; MPIE-SN External Group Leader
  • Location: Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH
  • Room: Large Conference Room No. 203
  • Host: on invitation of Dr. Jazmin Duarte and Prof. Gerhard Dehm
Sustainability and raw materials: do we have them enough?
Materials play a crucial role in driving the twin transition, a key strategy of the European Union to address current and future environmental challenges. Currently, improving the efficiency of solar cells and the capacity of battery storage is essential for achieving a Net Zero Carbon society, underlining the growing demand for innovative materials. Nanotechnology played a major role in development of the necessary hardware, such as sensors, data storage systems, and actuators, needed for advanced digital solutions. Still, the push to enhance performance and replace outdated technologies is accelerating the research into always-new materials and solutions. Performance-oriented development also expanded the range of metals utilized by humanity, leading to a scenario where a single smartphone necessitates a broader spectrum of elements than the entire biosphere [1], [2]. Due to the fast development, the raw materials for such technologies are changing by day - a pace that the supply chain cannot follow satisfactory. In addition, the environmental impact of raw materials production, especially metals, varies significantly. For example, steel production—accounting for 1.9 billion tons annually—contributes to 8% of global CO2 emissions, but its per mass environmental footprint is one of the lowest (2 kg of CO2 per kg of primary steel, and 0.7 kg of CO2 when recycled). In contrast, the production of platinum, crucial element for hydrogen economy with a limited production of 200 t/y, is one of the most carbon-intensive (60 tons of CO2 per kg of Pt). Limiting the challenge of the Green and digital revolutions to the simple cost-performance paradigm would be somehow repeating the mistake of the Oil Age during which the resource was considered as infinite and the impact on the environment had been long time neglected. Making the twin transition successful requires changing the mindset of innovators (from lower TRL) to a binary trade-off (price-performance) towards multi-criteria decision-making [3]. In the presentation, we will introduce a straightforward multi-criteria assessment methodology for evaluating the sustainability of metallic alloys.

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