Skip to main content
Logotip Europske komisije
Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Thermodynamic assessment of raw material use in Europe

Objectives of the commitment

The specific aims are:

1) Develop a methodology based on the exergy analysis (second law of thermodynamics) able to optimise raw-material intensive industries with the aim to provide a solid framework to LCA assessments.
2) Analyse the material flows of Europe, identifying the most critical raw materials from a thermodynamic point of view.
3) Develop the SETEA, i.e. a Global System of Environmental-Thermo-Economic Accounts (SETEA), where exergy replacement costs are embedded in the SEEA framework, so as to include the dispersion and scarcity of raw materials.
4) Disseminate the results and propose to adopt the created framework to the United Nations, EC and other interested institutions.

Rationale:
The laws of thermodynamics, in particular the exergy analysis provide the central framework for the assessment of the use of energy and material resources. The resource sector in Europe will be analysed through an improved “thermoeconomic” approach that will be developed throughout this project. Additionally, the methodology will be applied on a global scale studying the imports, exports, production and recycling rates of mineral commodities in Europe, so as to implement them to the European Union Raw material Knowledge Base (EURMKB). This will allow to identify which are the most critical raw materials in Europe from a thermodynamic point of view. It will further develop a solid accountability structure based on thermodynamics where the depletion of mineral resources is considered. The ultimate aim is to propose to the UN and the EC the adoption of a new system of environmental economic accounts, so as to address one of the most critical challenges that society is currently facing: the dispersion of raw materials.

Description of the activities

1) Develop an exergy-based methodology for the optimisation of ra-material intensive industries:
Conventional life cycle studies concerning raw materials are far from precise and need to be thoroughly reviewed. This is required if one wants to develop a solid theory based on Physics rather than on a more or less reasonable set of conjectures.Thermoeconomics constitutes the best framework in order to overcome such problems. That said, Thermoeconomics has been developed thus far for the evaluation of thermal systems, where mainly heat flows come into play. There is thus a need to adapt the methodology to metallurgical ones, through the use of the so called exergy replacement costs and the thermoecological costs. Once this is done, it will be applied to analyse and optimise different resource-intensive industries such as the silicon, iron, fertiliser or petrochemical one.

2) Material flows for Europe
A Spanish R+D Research Project helped us to demonstrate with the case study of Spain, the enormous importance of the depletion of minerals. It is now time to extend the borders and to cross over from the national to the global level and from the theoretical to the practical one. There is a need to raise awareness now that it is possible to put numbers into this debate. Accordingly, we will analyse the resource sector in Europe, by studying the imports, exports, production and recycling rates through a thermodynamic approach. This will allow to identify which are the most critical raw materials in our continent.

3) Develop the SETEA
To cross over from the theoretical to the practical level and improve the management of mineral resources, it is of vital importance that all nations account for their loss of mineral capital. And this needs to be done in terms of physical units and not subjective monetary units. A good starting point is the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts proposed by the UN. However, in the proponents opinion, the SEEA should be further developed into a Global System of Environmental-Thermo-Economic Accounts (SETEA), where the unit of measure instead of "tonnes" or "money" is in terms of exergy, thereby accounting for the depletion factor of minerals. Hence the aim is to construct a strong and practical infrastructure so as to improve the management of limited and critical resources on Earth.

4) Disseminate the results
The dissemination and transfer of the results constitutes the major challenge of this commitment, since its final aim is that the methodology developed here form part of a legitimate platform in the geopolitical debate on sustainable resource management. In the same way that the System for National Accounts has evolved into the SEEA, someday it would be possible to have complementary accounts for natural resources replacement costs into the framework of SEEA. Future generations will surely be grateful to such accounts. The dissemination activities include the publication of national and international books, papers in scientific journals, participation in international conferences, seminars and scientific, technological and social events and incorporate the results in the Exergoecology Portal (www.exergoecology.com) which was developed jointly by CIRCE and the Silesian University of Technology.

Description of the expected impacts

The challenge that this project wants to address is that of safeguarding mineral wealth for future generations on two levels: a macro and a micro one. One of the main impacts expected is to strengthen the raw materials research in the EU and putting the power and possibilities of the Laws of Thermodynamics at the forefront.

On a macro scale, the partners will try to provide a numerical magnitude to the problem of mineral depletion and scarcity, identifying the most critical raw materials at European level, contributing to the European Union Raw material Knowledge Base (EURMKB) and thereby improving the management of scarce minerals.

On a micro scale, an exergy based methodology will be developed so as to increase the understanding of resource intensive industrial processes and to optimise them properly. This will allow to contribute to:
• To improve energy efficiency by 20% compared with the current practices.
• To path the way for achieving the SPIRE2030 objective of reducing non-renewable, primary raw material
intensity up to 20% and fossil energy intensity up to 30%, both compared with current levels.
• To increase the reusability and recycling of materials between 70-100% depending on the sector.
• Reduce production costs up to 15 % compared with the current levels.
• A significant reduction of the environmental impacts (CO2 emissions, water footprint, pollutants, hazardous
emissions, etc.).

The ultimate ambition of the project is that the results obtained form part of a legitimate platform in the geopolitical debate on sustainable resource management. This could be achieved by the adoption of the proposed thermo-economic environmental accounting system into the System of Environmental Economic Accounts of United Nations.

Coordinating organisation & role

Name of the coordinating organisation: CIRCE - Centre of Research for Energy Resources and ConsumptionCountry: SpainEntity profile: AcademiaRole within the commitment:

Dr. Valero and her team at CIRCE are experts in the thermodynamic assessment of the mineral capital on Earth. Specifically in this commitment, CIRCE will be in charge of leading and acting as coordinator of the commitment. As such, it will collect all relevant information generated within the project and will submit it to the RM-EIP. Additionally, it will develop the accounting methodology proposed together with the Silesian University of Technology in Poland and Universidad de Valladolid in Spain and will apply it to assess the criticality of raw materials in Europe from a Thermodynamic point of view. It will also lead the promotion of the new system of environmental economic accounts to the UN and EC.

Other partners

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung e.V.

Name of the organisation: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung e.V. Country: Germany Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: Fraunhofer will lead the CFRP and GFRP recycling research.
Fraunhofer will perform corrosion tests on the developed materials.
Fraunhofer will work with CIDAUT on the implementation, validation and refinement of LCCA tools for the project. Fraunhofer is the Quality Manager of the Consortium and will oversee deliverables and general reporting are produced with the best possible quality following agreed review standards.

Fundacion Cidaut

Name of the organisation: Fundacion Cidaut Country: Spain Entity profile:
Role within the commitment: CIDAUT will lead the research activities on materials recycling and compounding, implementing lab scale demonstrators of each process at its premises and, later, supporting end-users upscale the processes.
CIDAUT will perform mechanical tests, microstructural analyses, injection moulding capability studies on the developed materails, and will work with Fraunhofer on the implementation, validation and refinement of LCCA tools for the project.

RWTH Aachen University (Institute of plastic processing (IKV)

Name of the organisation: RWTH Aachen University (Institute of plastic processing (IKV) Country: Germany Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: RWTH will implement the novel 3D Generative Preforming process (3D Fibre Spraying) that enables to create high-value long fibre-reinforced 3D preforms for thermoplastic and thermoset composites at low process costs (different kinds of yarn as a raw material, low tooling costs due to low cavity pressures). This cost effective technology allows to align the sprayed fibres in order to produce high-performance, engineered anisotropic products.

Universita' di Cagliari

Name of the organisation: Universita' di Cagliari Country: Italy Entity profile:
Role within the commitment: University of Cagliari is one of the leading European organization in the resin design and coupling with thermoplastic and thermose materials. University of Cagliari will support in the definition of the composite materials, both from CFRP/GFRP, ABS and Rare Earth composite material.

Relight

Name of the organisation: Relight Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - SME
Role within the commitment: RELIGHT will work with ITRB to provide the research partners with residues for the recycled ABS supply and the REE recovery processes, including their HydroWEEE process as part of the processes to be studied and analyzed.

Piaggio Aerospace

Name of the organisation: Piaggio Aerospace Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - large company
Role within the commitment: Piaggio Aerospace is one of the project End Users (Aeronautics Industry): as such it will provide requirements and further applications that could be developed with the Consortium Materials. Piaggio will assist in the compounds selection, provide Fraunhofer with specific corrosion requirements on business jet size aircraft, and will assess that the developed materials performance fits the selected applications desired improvements.

Blackshape Aircrafts

Name of the organisation: Blackshape Aircrafts Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - SME
Role within the commitment: Blackshape Aircrafts is one of the project End Users (Aeronautics Industry): as such it will provide requirements and further applications that could be developed with the Consortium Materials. Blackshape will support to fulfill the requirements of the aeronautics industry on ultra light jet, light jet and trainer for Syllabus, and will assess that the developed alloys performance fits the selected applications desired improvements.

KU Leuven

Name of the organisation: KU Leuven Country: Belgium Entity profile: Academia
Role within the commitment: KUL will collaborate on the balance problem studies and will lead the rare earth recovery research with the solvometallurgical and ionometallurgical processes.
KUL will also contribute to the final compounding selection.
KUL is the Dissemination Manager of the project, promoting that all partners are active on the project Dissemination.

FIDAMC

Name of the organisation: FIDAMC Country: Spain Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: FIDAMC is going to lead the Work Package on Compression Moulding with CFRP-enhanced materials. As part of the AIRBUS Group, FIDAMC will also be able to provide the input material.
FIDAMC successfully developed a 3D Printer of own design to serve the Aerospace Industry and will be supporting Smart Lab 3D Industries in its 3D printer design.

COMPOSITE INNOVATION CENTER

Name of the organisation: COMPOSITE INNOVATION CENTER Country: Canada Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: Composite Innovation Center is one of the world leading organization in the field of Composite materials, both from carbon fiber and vegetal-based fibers.
Composite Innovation center has successfully implemented, at lab-scale, recycling processes for CFRP and GFRP.

Existing EU Contribution: Yes

Period to implement the commitment: from 01-03-2014 to 31-03-2017