Guiomar Calvo, Alicia Valero and Antonio Valero, MEDEAS partners from CIRCE, have just published a scientific article in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, entitled "Thermodynamic Approach to Evaluate the Criticality of Raw Materials and Its Application through a Material Flow Analysis in Europe".
Critical raw materials are currently tagged so by the European Commission because of their supply risks and economic importance to the region. Yet this approach forgets important aspects of the physical reality of minerals. In this paper, a new dimension in the critcality assessment of raw materials is proposed based on thermodynamics. Accordingly, a given raw material will be thermodynamically rare if it is: (1) currently energy intensive to obtain and (2) scarce in nature. Considering this new dimension, we found that at least Li, Ta, Te, V and Mo should be also added to the criticality list. With this new list and using Sankey diagrams, a material flow analysis has been carried out for Europe (EU-28) for 2014, comparing the results when using tonnage and thermodynamic rarity as units of measure. Through the latter, one can put emphasis on the quality and not only on the quantity of minerals traded and domestically produced in the region, thereby providing a tool for improving resource management.
The complete article can be found openly available here.