Materials in a
Circular Economy

WEEK #3:
Food Preparation
September 17, 2019

Weekly topics

✓  0109/03Who are we? What can we do?
✓  0209/10Case study: Digital versus physical media
0309/17Food preparation
1111/12Material flows
1211/19Major impactors
1311/26Design for dissassembly
1412/03Re-mining materials
1512/10Re-engineering materials

Home Work No. 3
9/17 through 9/24
(Prep for Week No.4 - Buildings)

UPDATE: HW now emailed to the entire class

to sign up for your report this week.

Submit work via email to the entire class by Sunday 9/22 at 11:59PM.

Please separate the thesis work from your other work into unique files.

  1. READINGS: Read, annotate, and be prepared to discuss:
    • Please obtain your own copy of Materials Matter and Sustainable Materials without the Hot Air. Readings from these two texts will no longer be provided digitally.
    • Geiser, Kenneth (2001) “Chapter 3: The Economy of Industrial Materials,” Materials Matter. p.55-87
    • Allwood, Julian M. and Jonathan M. Cullen (2015) "Chapter 3: Our Uses of Steel and Aluminum," Sustainable Materials without the Hot Air. p.29-50
    • Allwood, Julian M. and Jonathan M. Cullen (2015) "Chapter 4: Metal Journeys," Sustainable Materials without the Hot Air. p.51-68
    • Siegal, R.P. (2019) “What's the Deal with Graphene?,” Mechanical Engineering. September, 2019. Vol 141, No 9 p.42-47
    • 4 to 1 booklet for printing readings double-sided and half-scale: Siegal (2019)
  2. THESIS: Select your final thesis topic and prepare an abstract for your thesis. This is a short description (500 words) of the work you intend to do and results you intend to acheive. After the work is complete, you will rewrite your abstract based on what you actually did and observed, determined, etc. Preparing a preliminary abstract is a great starting point for your research.
  3. SUSTAINABILITY METRICS: Research the state of the art in sustainability metrics. The Higgs Materials Sustainability Index, CFDA Materials Index, and EPA Sustainable Materials Management were some of the first things which came up in a preliminary internet search. These indexes (as with most things) are useful in some ways and limited in many others. In this exercise you will explore how, as you come to understand the ways we as a culture talk about and define the materials economy.
    1. Find and list literally as many examples as you can of sustainability metrics currently being used to describe materials. Include reference hyperlinks. It is important that we know where others have been. Your list should include metrics related toxicity and environmental harm as well as embodied energy, material use, reclaimability, renewability, etc.
    2. How do these metrics succeed in helping us make the argument to stop resource extraction, preserve natural spaces, and protect the health of the human environment by removing toxic materials?
    3. How do they fail at the same?
    4. What might you add or change to make some of the metrics more successful?
    5. Which metrics would you consider wholly misrepresentative or incorrect?
    6. List important metrics used to describe the materials economy which do not consider sustainbility.

    UPDATE: Please select your material to study this week from the following shared document: SHARED SPREADSHEET

    Research your selected material and report (briefly) on the following items. We will be adding to the reports each week as the course continues. Your role this week is to do the initial downdraft and help work out the kinks. We'll review and clarify the list as we formalize the metrics in class. Please be considering not only the content of the list items, but also be prepared to discuss the high-level thinking of what we put on the list. The work is never finished, but the hope is that we will document the current state of the materials economy and provide a platform for us to advocate for a more sustainable system. Materials indexing is a critical component to our platform.

    1. Composition - elemental anaylsis
    2. Molecular structure
    3. Material properities (strength, conductivity, elasticity, reactivity, etc.)
    4. Sources - geographic extraction location (primordial and waste stream)
    5. Extraction processes (environmental destruction, energy use, waste generated, tooling and infrastructure required)
    6. Uses - current and historical
    7. Processing to form stock material
    8. Processing into final products
    9. Life cycle transportation
    10. Packaging
    11. End of life reuse - reclaimability, recyclability, etc.
  5. NEW MATERIALS: It is important to consider the implications of new materials, as they are often engineered and manufactured before their is a direct application or need. The article What's the Deal with Graphene? comments, "Why produce graphene at scale when there's no market? And why design graphene-enabled products when there is no supply?" It appears graphene has much potential to transform the materials economy in a host of exciting ways. It also has the potential to cover the environment we live in into an extremely light, extremely strong, transparent layer of carbon atoms... if we thought CO2 was scary, how about just pure carbon nanosheets? Write a short discussion piece on the possible dangers of manufacutring graphene at scale. Do these dangers outweigh the benefits? What about only using graphene for medical devices? Military devices? Transportation? Space travel? Consider if there is a safe space to explore new materials that have the potential to harm.