Material flow analysis of scarce metals: Sources, functions, end-uses and aspects for future supply

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Abstract

A number of metals that are now important to the electronic industry (and others) will become much more important in the future if current trends in technology continue. Most of these metals are byproducts (or hitch-hikers) of a small number of important industrial metals (attractors). By definition, the metals in the hitch-hiker group are not mined by themselves, and thus their production is limited by the demand for the major attractors. This article presents a material flow analysis (MFA) of the complex inter-relationships between these groups of metals. First, it surveys the main sources of geologically scarce (byproduct) metals currently considered critical by one or other of several recent studies. This is followed by a detailed survey of their major functions and the quantities contained in intermediate and end-products. The purpose is to identify the sectors and products where those metals are used and stocked and thus potentially available for future recycling. It concludes with a discussion of the limitations of possible substitution and barriers to recycling. © 2013 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2939-2947
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume47
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2013

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