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Critical metals in high-growth technologies: A scenario study of equitable technology distribution in 2050
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Science, Technology and Media, Department of Ecotechnology and Sustainable Building Engineering.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This scenario study focused on potential future demand of critical metals if the world strives for equitable use of technologies in the world in 2050. Smartphones and other electronics are increasing in the world and the consumption rate is high as the use-life generally are short. Technologies moving away from fossil fuels have increased in recent years and include solar cells and wind power in the energy sector and electric vehicles in the transportation sector. All these growing technologies are dependent on some specific metals.

In some technological areas, the potential future use of specific metals have the risk to become critically scarce, as the use of these technologies increase. These technologies and their use of these potentially critical metals have been investigated in this scenario study, assuming equitable technology distribution in 2050. For metals which in the scenario study indicate critical supply, potential strategies have been screened. Rare earth elements have played a huge role improving wind turbines due to their use of neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium. Indium and tellurium are used to produce the new generation of solar cells. Lithium is important in electric vehicles and smartphone batteries. These potentially scarce metals might have the possibility to be substituted with other metals that can serve as a good enough substitution in these application. If these metals are substituted it is important that the substitution materials will not in themselves become critical. Substituting one critical metal with another might just result in the same unsustainable problems. These potentially scarce metals are also connected to some environmental consequences as demand is rapidly growing and mining is the main source for these metals. Another problem is that recycling rates are low and these metals often end up in landfills where they pose a risk of leaching hazardous or harmful substances.

This scenario study showed supply limitations for the seven metals that were included. The outcome of this study resulted in the following conclusions:

 Indium and tellurium have a risk to become extremely critical where neither reduced material intensity nor recycling can decrease demand enough.

 Lithium demand Risks to become too high to support with current reserves and as material intensity is likely to increase, and recycling only can contribute with small shares in 2050, substitution is the preferable solution to the lithium scarcity.

 Neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium demands can be reduced through reduced material intensity, but as they are dependent on other REEs the availability of these four metals will depend on the demand for other REEs

 Materials under development as substitutions have to be studied regarding their availability and price sensitivity. Substituting one critical metal with another may result in similar problems for a new metal instead of a long-term solution.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 32 p.
Keyword [en]
Critical metals, Scenario study, Equitable distribution
Keyword [sv]
Kritiska metaller, Scenariostudie, Jämlik distribution
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-30792Local ID: Mö-V16-G3-004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-30792DiVA: diva2:1103863
Subject / course
Environmental Engineering MM1
Educational program
Eco Engineering TEKOG 180 Higher Education Credits
Supervisors
Examiners
Note

2017-05-02

Available from: 2017-05-31 Created: 2017-05-31

Open Access in DiVA

fulltext(1569 kB)10 downloads
File information
File name FULLTEXT01.pdfFile size 1569 kBChecksum SHA-512
75371ff125a853545238c4226034d916fa5089c58c6af741e8b535228e25a63798f85f724a5b20499da7a77be280ee3bbad3ccaa5f36e7bea658caec3117b110
Type fulltextMimetype application/pdf

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Department of Ecotechnology and Sustainable Building Engineering

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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  • text
  • asciidoc
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