Materials flow analysis of critical elements for environmental technologies

Material Flow Analysis

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Urban Foresight is a partner in the LAYERS project, which is using material flow analysis to map the supply chain of minerals and related metals demanded by environmental technologies and applications.

The consumption of most minerals and related metals has increased steadily since World War II, and it is likely that demand will continue to grow in response to the burgeoning global population and the inexorable spread of prosperity across the world. At the same time, global action to protect the environment and to mitigate and adapt to increased atmospheric CO2 is demanding significant changes in the way we generate and use energy. These include an increase in the amount of energy produced from renewable resources, including wind and solar; a growth in the use electric and hybrid vehicles; and increasing energy efficiency of electronics in both industrial and domestic use. However, the environmental technologies and applications that will allow for cleaner energy and more efficient energy usage depend on a range of raw materials that are primarily provided by mining.

The LAYERS project is led by Newcastle University and funded by a CATALYST grant from the UK Natural Environment Research Council. The primary objective is to generate a protocol that uses material flow analysis to understand and illustrate the links between geological and geographical occurrence, mining, processing, manufacture, use and end of life of selected environmental technology elements. LAYERS will develop and test a methodology/framework that can become an essential tool to ensure resilience of supply and minimum carbon inputs, both of which have significant cost implications to individual strategies at a range of scales in the UK (national, local government planning and UK industry).

Urban Foresight’s role within the project is primarily focused on reviewing global strategies to determine the future technologies needed to reduce carbon emissions, and providing an indication of the likely demand for different elements.

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