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Materials and Sustainable Technology

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ms Helen Gardner.

“Sustainable technology” has many interpretations. Central to all are the concepts of Natural Capital (the planet’s resources), Human Capital (the health, education and social development of the human population of the planet) and Manufactured Capital (the value of man-made institutions, infrastructure and wealth). “Sustainability” is not a single-valued parameter that can be quantified and optimized. Issues of sustainability are intrinsically complex; their assessment requires acceptance of this complexity and working with it. The contemporary scientific literature contains many projects with the word “Sustainable” in the title; these articulations generally aim to support one or another of the three Capitals listed above but few support all three. Progress is possible only with well-balanced compromise. Introducing this complexly into teaching is challenging. This talk will describe a framework for exploring sustainability from a Materials perspective. It suggests a methodology for the sustainability-analysis of products or projects, supported by a new CES Edu database, SUSTAIN , that provides some of the necessary inputs. It has an elementary and an advanced level (like many of the other CES database). Its Materials data-table is expanded to contain the countries of origin of materials and a measure of their criticality (a measure of the security of the supply chain). Its Nations data-table provides background on the economic, political and social conditions in the 210 Nations of the world from which materials might the drawn or goods manufactured. Its Legislation data-table provides summaries of European and US legislation and Regulations that bear on the sourcing, use and disposal of materials and products. The data-tables are linked, making connections that allow the complexity to be explored. The method and database will be illustrated by applying them to a contemporary development – the electric car.

This talk is part of the Engineering Department Micromechanics Seminars series.

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