Volume 109, Number 5, 2012
Social Value of Materials
|Page(s)||333 - 339|
|Section||Criticality of material supply|
|Published online||28 September 2012|
Strategies for fulfilment of critical raw materials demand in Europe
RWTH Aachen University, Department of Ferrous
e-mail: Dieter.Senk@iehk.rwth-aachen.de; Gergana.Abrasheva@iehk.rwth-aachen.de
2 RWTH Aachen University, Department of Mineralogy and Economic Geology, Aachen, Germany
3 RWTH Aachen University, Department of Processing and Recycling of Solid Waste Material, Aachen, Germany
Received: 19 February 2012
Accepted: 13 July 2012
As the global economy grows and evolves in the 21st century emerging technologies will require mineral commodities on a greater scale and in a larger number of applications than ever before. The explosive growth in the economies of other nations and the concomitant and explosive increase in demand for raw materials are the reasons for potential supply restrictions. The portfolio of minerals and metals needed for manufacturing is dynamic. If the supply of any of the raw materials used in everyday products and in new emerging technologies was curtailed, many high-tech sectors of the European industries could be significantly affected. For example, the so called “tuning metals” or “spice metals”, although used only in small and essentially as “functional alloyings” in conventional metals are indispensable as “power amplifier” of modern materials used in vehicle construction. These materials are in principle recyclable. However, in most cases it is impossible to recycle them because of the minor concentration in application, thus they are being “consumed”. The Faculty of Georesources and Materials Engineering of RWTH Aachen University is initiating thereupon an integrated interdisciplinary research. The three divisions of the faculty, i.e. Raw Materials and Waste Disposal Technology, Metallurgy and Materials Technology as well as Geosciences and Geography, collaborate on the issue of sustaining critical raw materials availability so that the supply of materials needed for futures industries can be guaranteed. Objective of this research cooperation is to develop life-cycle strategies for critical raw materials which are fundamental for emerging technologies. Securing the availability of raw materials may be accomplished by improving the efficiency of the raw materials chain and by enhancing the raw materials base. Increasing also the knowledge base in this field will enable the European society to transfer more resources into economically efficient and technically manageable as well as politically and socially acceptable mineral and metal reserves. Assuring a sustainable availability of critical metals will be of paramount importance for technical innovations. Researchers and scientists from the Faculty of Humanities at RWTH Aachen University are also involved to study the relation between raw materials supply and economic as well as social matters. Mapping out sustainable strategies for securing the supply of raw materials in the long run requires the competence and input of scientists in fields of natural, engineering, political, economical, and social sciences. Demand and supply of raw materials are affected by the economy, whereas global political and social issues have impact on the same economy.
Key words: Raw materials supply / recycling / resource availability / critical metals / sustainability
© EDP Sciences 2012
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