Alloy information helps prioritize material criticality lists

Thomas E. Graedel, Barbara Reck and 1 other contributor

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    Materials scientists employ metals and alloys that involve most of the periodic table. Nonetheless, materials scientists rarely take material criticality and reuse potential into account. In this work, we expand upon lists of “critical materials” generated by national and regional governments by showing that many materials are employed predominantly as alloying elements, which can be a deterrent to recovery and reuse at end of product life and, likely as a consequence, have low functional end-of-life recycling rates, among other problematic characteristics. We thereby single out six metals for enhanced concern: dysprosium, samarium, vanadium, niobium, tellurium, and gallium. From that perspective, the use of critical metals in low concentrations in alloys unlikely to be routinely recycled should be avoided if possible. If not, provision should be made for better identification and more efficient recycling so that materials designated as critical can have increased potential for more than a single functional use.