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Technical impact indicators for materials

  • N.G. Dlamini, E. Yamasue, H. Okumura and K.N. Ishihara

Abstract

The impact of the use of particular materials on the environment and society can be assessed in a number of ways, including through the impact on natural resources, contribution to environmental burden and effects on the quality of human life. In this context, indicators such as embodied energy, exergy, TMR (total material requirement), ecological footprint, social indicators (such as effects on human health) and LCA based on these indicators, are available. We apply the concept of energy networks 1 (quoted in Appendix O), to explore the differences in energy network impact due to processes for the production of various materials, each time with an equivalent end-use in mind. The inventory analysis part of LCA has been carried out on materials, as well as some work on impact assessment (LCIA) for resource use, pollution severity and health impact. The indicators proposed here aid the assessment of the energy system impact, particularly with regards to opportunity costs to society, impact on equity in society and the administrative burden on society due to the current energy networks. The indicators are: embodied energy, the maximum process temperature, the annual use energy, and network reliance. Three case studies are employed to explore the usefulness of the indicators, including a beverage container, a house window frame and a beverage bottle transport crate. These case studies show that for a particular end use, different materials can have wide differences in the proportion of energy sourced from energy networks (a factor of 95 observed in one case). The indicators also offer a quicker indication than life cycle assessment and allow deduction of impacts on a wider social system. The indicators have the potential to change material development and process design trends towards processes which are less burdensome on energy networks.

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Keywords

Technical impact indicators for materials

  • N.G. Dlamini, E. Yamasue, H. Okumura and K.N. Ishihara

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