A research team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), intend to develop a car that is 100% constructed from recycled materials.
What impact is the current manufacturing process having on the climate?
A lot of a car’s parts contain valuable metals—including the battery that is constructed of important rare earth metals—that can be recycled and reused. However, the degree of recycling typically depends on how the car parts are produced.
The green shift means that we slowly but surely need to recognise that the products we purchase are not new, but rather consist of materials that have been given a new lease of life through recycling.
The latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made it apparent that immediate and major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are essential, in order to achieve the Paris Agreement goal, to limit the Earth’s temperature increase to 1.5°C.
What factors need to be considered when utilising recycled materials in car production?
For industries, this means transitioning to manufacturing low-carbon products. More products need to be recycled, and production has to be adapted so that materials are recycled, either as the same original product type, or remelted and reused for new purposes.
In order for this to be possible, scientists aim to maintain the value of products, materials, and resources for as long as possible, which aligns with the principle of a circular economy. The intention is that all manufacturing should consider the product’s lifespan and recycling possibilities.
Another important factor that scientists have identified is the necessity of high-quality products being created with recycled materials that not only possess a long shelf life, but also do not need to be replaced often. Longer product life will contribute to the shift towards a greener climate.
Why is the transition to green manufacturing so important?
The transition to greener processes in the metal industry is an ongoing process. Growing awareness relating to this development has highlighted the substantial benefits that would emerge regarding the reducing emissions by employing greener manufacturing alternatives.
Norwegian and international metal-based industries must increasingly comply with both national and international rules and requirements for greater use of recycled metals in its materials and products.
Thus, this highlights not only the necessity for better systems and routines for collecting and sorting scrap metal materials, but also the critical requirement in developing new metal alloys and products that are designed to be recycled.
New technologies, material solutions, and innovations that enable greater recycling of scrap metal materials are crucial in the green shift. For example, 75% of all aluminium produced world-wide is still in use, and represents a major resource for the aluminium industry, both in replacing and in supplementing the primary production of aluminium. Remelting only requires up to 7% of the energy required for primary aluminium production.
How do scientists intend to contribute towards this transition?
Finding new and greener manufacturing methods requires a lot of new knowledge, which means that both the research and industry sectors need to work collaboratively in order to achieve a rapid green shift.
Funding schemes have been initiated for research in Norway—such as the Research Council of Norway’s ‘Green Platform’— as well as internationally (the EU’s ‘Green Deal’) and are now aimed at projects that have sustainability as their fundamental objective.
Scientists have explained that innovative measures will assist increased knowledge. Additionally, guaranteeing that the new knowledge regarding recycling materials is utilised in the industry and becomes part of the circular economy is also essential. This emphasises the necessity for research organisations and industries to collaborate closely.
NTNU and Scandinavia’s largest independent research institution, SINTEF, have established ‘SFI PhysMet’, which is a centre for research on physical metallurgy where in which researchers and industry partners work closely together. This centre is one of the Research Council’s centres for research-based innovation (SFI).
Physical metallurgy can be defined as making useful products from metals. The field encompasses the study of the properties of metals and alloys, such as mechanical strength and forming properties.
How will SFI PhysMet aid this research?
The primary goal of SFI PhysMet is to assist Norwegian metal-based industries shift to more sustainable materials, processes, and products.
SFI PhysMet is currently collaborating with the automotive industry to produce car parts with lower CO2 footprints. The centre is also working to create sustainable metal-based solutions that are important for the development of offshore wind turbines, the construction of large bridge structures that can replace the ferry on the E39 highway between Trondheim and Kristiansand, and new processes for making materials and alloys better suited for recycling and recovery.
The interaction between research and industry is important for achieving the shift to greener technologies. However, scientists have noted that it is the consumers who will inevitably make use of all the green products, and in the future we may all be driving cars produced completely from recycled materials.
This means the recycled products are expected to be at least as good as today’s products, with the difference being that the new production methods will contribute to the green shift and a safer future for our Earth.