“Sustainable development of materials: Enabling a circular economy using safer chemicals”
Within the materials science and engineering field, we use a variety of chemicals in our research labs and in our manufacturing plants. We also develop new materials and new products. Our goal is usually centered around performance metrics: increased strength, higher ductility, enhanced conductivity, etc. But many materials are toxic to humans or to the environment. In the workplace, we have protections in place and safety data sheets that we can use to understand the hazards these substances present. But the general population assumes the materials that they come in contact with, and the products they use, are hazard free. The presence of hazardous and toxic materials in products also presents challenges for the circular economy and the goal of recycling, recovering and reusing materials and products. Thus, it is imperative that we incorporate sustainable development of materials concepts into materials selection and design decisions. This talk will use a case study approach to highlight the challenges and opportunities ahead as we enable a circular economy based on the use of safer chemicals.