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2016 MRS Spring Meeting


EE15.1.01 - Materials and Sustainable Development


Mar 29, 2016 1:45pm ‐ Mar 29, 2016 2:00pm

Description

Much Materials research today has, as its primary or one of its secondary aims, to contribute to the technologies that are more “sustainable” than those we now use. The immediate perception this creates is one of resource-efficiency: technology that is less energy intensive, less water intensive and less material intensive than at present. But if the claim of a sustainable development is to be justified, there are further considerations. Globally, the annual resource-consumption in question (energy, water, materials) are not measured in joules, ccs or grams but in petajoules, cubic kilometers, billions of tonnes. If the research material is to be “disruptive”, making a significant contribution to a more sustainable way of life, will have to be produced on a scale, and in a time-frame, that have a measureable effect on this consumption. If on this scale there are other consequences: markets are disturbed, people are affected - there are social and economic dimensions, when adverse short-term impacts may have to be justified by long-term gains. It is not the job of materials researchers to solve these problems but to be aware and if they are to make claims that their research has “sustainability” as a tag line, it would be responsible to survey how it might map-out on the larger scale.
The paper will focus on a methodology for thinking about this, starting from the proposed “sustainable development”, exploring the context: the nature of the innovation and the stakeholders that it involves
1. the material demands and the ability of the global supply chain to meet them;
2. the risks associated with a given material choice and ways of mitigating the risk by substitution;
3. the ultimate impact of the innovation on natural, manufactured, human and social capital.

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