Strategies for improving the sustainability of structural metals.
Metallic materials have enabled technological progress over thousands of years. The accelerated demand for structural (that is, load-bearing) alloys in key sectors such as energy, construction, safety and transportation is resulting in predicted production growth rates of up to 200 per cent until 2050. Yet most of these materials require a lot of energy when extracted and manufactured and these processes emit large amounts of greenhouse gases and pollution. Here we review methods of improving the direct sustainability of structural metals, in areas including reduced-carbon-dioxide primary production, recycling, scrap-compatible alloy design, contaminant tolerance of alloys and improved alloy longevity. We discuss the effectiveness and technological readiness of individual measures and also show how novel structural materials enable improved energy efficiency through their reduced mass, higher thermal stability and better mechanical properties than currently available alloys. Structural metals enable improved energy efficiency through their reduced mass, higher thermal stability and better mechanical properties; here, methods of improving the sustainability of structural metals, from recycling to contaminant tolerance, are described.
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