Could the extensive use of rare elements in renewable energy technologies become a cause for concern?
Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik - Boltzmannstr. 2, 85748 Garching, Germany
Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft - Faradayweg 4-6, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Lehrstuhl für Fahrzeugtechnik, Technische Universität München Boltzmannstraße 15, 85748 Garching, Germany
Institut für Energiewirtschaft und Anwendungstechnik, Technische Universität München Arcisstraße 21, 80333 München, Germany
Published online: 27 August 2015
The energy transformation process beginning to take place in many countries as a response to climate change will reduce substantially the consumption of fossil fuels, but at the same time cause a large increase in the demand for other raw materials. Whereas it is difficult to estimate the quantities of, for example, iron, copper and aluminium required, the situation is somewhat simpler for the rare elements that might be needed in a sustainable energy economy based largely on photovoltaic sources, wind and possibly nuclear fusion. We consider briefly each of these technologies and discuss the supply risks associated with the rare elements required, if they were to be used in the quantities that might be required for a global energy transformation process. In passing, we point out the need in resource studies to define the terms “rare”, “scarce” and “critical” and to use them in a consistent way.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2015
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