Welcome to the Exergoecology Portal
You are here: Home / Resources / Exergoecology bibliography / Thermodynamic Approach to Evaluate the Criticality of Raw Materials and Its Application through a Material Flow Analysis in Europe

Guiomar Calvo, Alicia Valero, and Antonio Valero ()

Thermodynamic Approach to Evaluate the Criticality of Raw Materials and Its Application through a Material Flow Analysis in Europe

Journal of Industrial Ecology:n/a–n/a.

This paper makes a review of current raw material criticality assessment methodologies and proposes a new approach based on the second law of thermodynamics. This is because conventional methods mostly focus on supply risk and economic importance leaving behind relevant factors, such as the physical quality of substances. The new approach is proposed as an additional dimension for the criticality assessment of raw materials through a variable denoted “thermodynamic rarity,” which accounts for the exergy cost required to obtain a mineral commodity from bare rock, using prevailing technology. Accordingly, a given raw material will be thermodynamically rare if it is: (1) currently energy intensive to obtain and (2) scarce in nature. If a given commodity presents a high risk in two of the three dimensions (economic importance, supply risk, and thermodynamic rarity), it is proposed to be critical. As a result, a new critical material list is presented, adding to the 2014 criticality list of the European Commission (EC) Li, Ta, Te, V, and Mo. 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.

critical raw materials, European Union, industrial ecology, material flow analysis, mineral trade, thermodynamic rarity

Document Actions


Please subscribe for the new newsletter.

Logo instituto Circe
Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Ulysea S.L. - Informática

The Material Limits of Energy Transition: Thanatia

Antonio Valero Capilla, Alicia Valero Delgado and Guiomar Calvo

This book provides a holistic view of raw mineral depletion in the context of renewable energy transistion.

The material limits Thanatia


Thanatia. Los límites minerales del planeta

mites minerales del planeta

 Antonio Valero Capilla and Alicia Valero Delgado interviewed by Adrián Almazán

We need a material transition, not only energetic, that restores nature and effectively reuses materials. Gaia must be cared for by extending life on Earth and slowing its degradation towards Thanatia.

Thanatia los limites


Thermodynamics for Sustainable Management of Natural Resources

Cover Thermodynamics

Wojciech Stanek (Editor)

This book examines ways of assessing the rational management of nonrenewable resources. Integrating numerous methods, it systematically exposes the strengths of exergy analysis in resources management.

Thanatia: The Destiny of the Earth's Mineral Resources

Cover Thanatia

A Thermodynamic Cradle-to-Cradle Assessment by (author): Antonio Valero Capilla and Alicia Valero Delgado

Is Gaia becoming Thanatia, a resource exhausted planet? For how long can our high-tech society be sustained in the light of declining mineral ore grades, heavy dependence on un-recycled critical metals and accelerated material dispersion? These are all root causes of future disruptions that need to be addressed today.