Life Cycle Assessment of Metals: A Scientific Synthesis
Metals are among the major materials upon which our economies are built. Global demand for both bulk metals (e.g. steel in buildings and aluminum in vehicles) as well as the “scarcer” specialty metals (e.g. indium in LCD screens and rare earth elements in new energy technologies) is increasing. As metals production expands, the system-wide environmental impacts of metal mining, refining and manufacture need to be fully understood, and data gaps and methodological challenges clearly identified. The goal of this research is to provide a global overview of the cradle-to-gate environmental implications associated with some 62 metals in year 2008. Monte-Carlo (MC) simulation and sensitivity analysis are applied to investigate the stability of our results and discuss the limitations of current allocation procedures. Patterns and trends of environmental burdens are shown across the period table and in relation to parameters such as ore grade and global production quantities, and recommendations for future work presented.
Criticality of Iron and the Alloying Metals
Because modern technology depends on reliable supplies of a wide variety of materials, and because of increasing concern about those supplies, a comprehensive methodology has been created by (Graedel et al, 2012) to quantify the degree of criticality of the metals of the periodic table. In this project, we apply this methodology to iron (Fe) and the alloying metals: chromium (Cr), niobium (Nb), manganese (Mn), and vanadium (V). These elements represent the basic metals of any industrial society and are vital for national security and economic well-being. Assessments relating to their supply risk, vulnerability to supply restriction and environmental implications are made on corporate, national and global levels for year 2008. Evaluations of each of the multiple indicators are presented, and the results plotted in “criticality space”, together with Monte Carlo simulation-derived “uncertainty cloud” estimates for each of the aggregated evaluations. It is hoped that results of this study will add to the current debate on sustainable materials use and availability of metals in the 21st century.
The Story of Phosphorus and Metals Use in the Agricultural Sector
Food production requires application of fertilizers containing phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium on agricultural fields in order to sustain crop yields. However, modern agriculture and food production systems also depend on a variety of additional elements used as micronutrients, agricultural and food production equipment. This study will use network analysis to visualize the use of elements in today’s food production system for various regions of the world. We then examine the features of the resulting network showing important nodes and pointing out opportunities for recovering phosphorus and reducing demand. Using scenario predictions, an outlook to potential supply and demand patterns until 2050 is given.