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Tutorial ES10—Sustainable Development of Materials

Nov 26, 2017
07:30 AM - 04:00 PM
Hynes, Level 2, Room 203

This tutorial will present material that both introduces the concepts of sustainable development as well as serve as a primer for the papers to be presented in ES10. Topics and concepts such as sustainability, materials for sustainable development, circular materials economy, recycling, life cycle assessment, materials substitution, critical materials, manufacturing and materials efficiency will be covered.

8:30 am – 10:00 am|
Part I: Martin L. Green
Introduction and the Role of Materials in Sustainability

The topic of “Materials for sustainable development,” which lies at the intersection of materials science, engineering, and sustainability will be addressed. This topic is characterized by: enormous materials and energy scales (Gigatons and Terajoules); complexity, requiring a system-wide approach involving the input of scientists, industrial ecologists, engineers, economists, sociologists, and public policy experts; the use of life cycle assessment (LCA), a core methodology for quantification of energy, material, and water footprints. Because materials are technology-enablers, sustainable development will not be possible without the involvement of the materials science research community.

10:00 am – 10:30 am  BREAK

10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Part II: Jonathan Cullen
A Circular Materials Economy—With Both Eyes Open

A circular economy (CE) is a perfect idea, one in which waste no longer exists, one where material loops are closed, and where products are recycled indefinitely. A CE, in practice, aims to keep products and materials at their highest value, throughout multiple recovery cycles. Material recycling is, nearly without exception, assumed to be good environmental practice. However, in reality, the material losses and energy inputs associated with recycling can often undermine the overall environmental benefit. If we accept CE as a theoretical ideal, it serves as an excellent benchmark to measure progresses toward material circularity. A scale can be constructed, ranging from linear at one end to perfectly circular at the other, to asses both the quantity and quality of materials as they flow through the economy. In this tutorial, we apply such a metric to the current industrial system, focusing on energy-intensive material production where environmental impacts occur at the largest scale. With this approach we can assess the current progress of material circularity, and, how far could we practically move toward perfect circularity?

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm  BREAK

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Part III: Gabrielle Gaustad
Selecting Sustainable Materials

This session will introduce the fundamentals necessary for materials engineers, scientists and designers to make informed material selection decisions in regards to environmental impacts. Traditional material selection strategies of balancing properties are often ill-equipped to handle sustainability metrics and those that can are a black box when it comes to how those metrics are quantified. The tutorial will explore how such metrics are quantified, uncertainty surrounding those quantifications and what parameters drive change for these metrics. Material-related sustainability metrics learned will include material consumption, extraction, scarcity, criticality, embodied energy, eco-efficiency, eco-toxicity, lifespan and recyclability. Strategies for incorporating environmentally benign material selection into case study projects will be explored to illustrate several methodologies.

3:00 pm – 3:30 pm  BREAK

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm
Part IV: Tatiana Vakhitova
Materials-Related Risks and Sustainable Design

This part of the tutorial will focus on Granta’s sustainability-related teaching resources, including the recently developed five-step methodology to evaluate proposals for technologies, enabling Sustainable Development. The methodology is used in teaching interdisciplinary courses and has been developed by Granta Design in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Barcelona (UPC) and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Granta’s Sustainability Database will be used to demonstrate the application of the methodology in its fact-finding stage. The Sustainability Database includes a comprehensive database of materials with environmental properties for all classes of materials, for example, carbon footprint, embodied energy, water use and durability. This Database also has a unique set of socioeconomic data to analyze and discuss the key concepts, such as materials criticality, geo-political risk and legislative and social aspects relevant to materials (resources). In this workshop, one will learn about problem-based cases on assessing the sustainability of technological developments, gain practical knowledge and skills regarding Ecodata and Ecoinformed materials selection and learn the basics of life-cycle thinking.


  • Martin L. Green, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Jonathan Cullen, University of Cambridge
  • Gabrielle Gaustad, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Tatiana Vakhitova, Granta Design