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By Gabrielle Gaustad
REWAS 2013: Enabling Materials Resource Sustainability|
Posted on: 10/18/2012 12:00:00 AM... One of the key engineering challenges of the 21st century will be reducing the harmful effects associated with a growing population and the attendant flows of materials. Consumption of materials globally has risen exponentially over the last century. This surging usage requires increased production, often accompanied by a higher environmental burden in terms of increased energy usage, waste, and emissions. The industrial revolution, built on breakthroughs in materials technologies, has transformed the now developed world. At the same time, many have raised the alarm on the social and environmental ills associated with modern life and the industry that supports it. In response, governments, industry, and citizens have adopted regulations, new technologies, and behaviors that are aimed at addressing these acute issues.
The materials community is uniquely positioned to play a central role in addressing these problems by fundamentally changing the materials and processes used by society. Materials experts will be the key to realizing, enabling, and understandingsustainability via a broad, systems-level perspective to their work. REWAS 2013 was developed to showcase this emerging perspective in materials research with targeted symposia organized in these three key areas The event is being held as part of the TMS 2013 Annual Meeting and Exhibition in San Antonio, Texas, March 3-7.
REWAS 2013 is included as part of the registration for the TMS 2013 Annual Meeting and Exhibition.
The goal of REWAS 2013 is to build from the successful Sustainable Materials Processing and Production symposium, organized by the Materials and Society Committee for the TMS 2010 Annual Meeting. This symposium brought together thought leaders from industry, government, and academia to discuss successful production strategies for the materials science community to address sustainability issues.
With careful selection of topic areas, plenary talks, and speakers, REWAS 2013 expands beyond the technical community to pull in practitioners involved with methodologies that measure sustainability, including life-cycle assessment, systems modeling, and industrial ecology. This integration of perspectives is a key enabler for solving multi-disciplinary challenges.The following offers an overview of the three topic areas that comprise REWAS 2013.
Every sector faces unique challenges in the transition to sustainability. However, a common factor across each will be the key role that materials will play in realizing this transition. Speakers in this session will focus on five key sustainability relevant areas: transportation; the built environment; electrical and electronic equipment and infrastructure; energy production and storage; and water systems. Talks will focus on trends and drivers toward sustainability, their enabling materials technologies and challenges, and the tools to evaluate environmental impacts. Plenary talks by distinguished leaders in these areas are also planned. Highlights include a Saint-Gobain director who will discuss sustainable approaches to advanced materials development for the built environment and a participant on the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Metal Recycling study who will share findings from that report. Other talks will examine assessing metal criticality, innovative end-of-pipe treatments for emissions and wastewater, and manufacturing efficiency gains for photovoltaic materials.
Enabling technologies, particularly in primary and secondary processing, will be important drivers to realizing the benefits of novel material solutions. Talks in this session will focus on: sustainable metals and materials processing; design of products, processes, and systems for recycling and resource recovery; and process design, modeling, and simulation. Innovation in primary processing is a key challenge area as the “easy” solutions have already been implemented. New work will be featured in fundamental understanding of process-property relationships, particularly at differing structure scales, and in practical utilization of new methods and technologies to translate property changes into environmental gains. Strategies for upgrading slags from metal production, as well as environmentally aware strategies to increase metal refining and purification efficiency are examples of specific topics that will be covered. Secondary processing also requires technology innovation in the form of sorting, upgrading, and reprocessing equipment, in addition to efficient design of complex recovery systems. Highlighted talks on this point include development of waste sorting equipment and novel resource extraction techniques from end-of-life printed circuit boards, spent catalysts, and electric motors.
Quantifying environmental impacts and characterizing changes towards sustainability requires utilization of system-level tools and methodologies. Talks planned for this topic area highlight the development and implementation of these tools with a focus on life-cycle management, life-cycle analysis, and industrial ecology; as well as systems modeling and design. Truly understanding sustainability related trade-offs requires enhanced education and awareness of all life-cycle stake-holders. For this reason, speakers will share their knowledge and experiences related to educational initiatives aimed at training future sustainability-aware engineers and scientists, as well as strategies to increase consumer awareness and participation. Highlights include talks on successful approaches to communicating complex, sustainability-related issues to the general public, while also integrating sustainability-related research into materials science curriculum.
Editor's Note: Gabrielle Gaustad is assistant professor, Golisano Institute for Sustainability, Rochester Institute of Technology and a member of the REWAS 2013 organizing committee that prepared this article as a group effort. The committee membership includes: Randolph Kirchain, Gregory Krumdick, Anne Kvithyld, Diana Lados, Christina Meskers, Brajendra Mishra, Markus Reuter, Mark Schlesinger, and Cong Wang. REWAS 2013 is included as part of the registration for the TMS 2013 Annual Meeting and Exhibition. For additional information and to register, go to the website.
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