Advanced materials tech
Advanced materials tech development offer engineers and manufacturers an opportunity to look beyond traditional technologies to focus on achieving sustainability targets

Member Article

Why sustainable materials technology is big business

Reaching the summit that is NetZero may seem like a pipe dream, but our journey there can be a less arduous one as well as a more realistic one thanks to new innovative material technologies in manufacturing that champion sustainability. However, engineers and manufacturers must embrace them now, urges Richard Thompson, commercial director at Alvant.

With the race to NetZero to reduce weight, improve efficiencies and be more cost effective without compromising on structural integrity or performance, there is no doubt that engineers and manufacturers are up against it. The pressure to meet ever stringent market and legislative demands - pressure that has escalated post COP26 – is tangible. We are now all aware that our planet’s resources aren’t finite – including water, coal and oil, with the latter estimated to run out by 2052.

It’s not just in the energy, oil and gas sector of course; aerospace, automotive, marine and consumer goods manufacturers are also looking for ways to increase product capabilities and performance while at the same time meeting ambitious goals for fuel efficiency and sustainability.

New lightweight materials

There is of course no quick fix to such a colossal problem, but now is the time for engineers to look beyond traditional technologies and embrace long-term change. Advanced composite materials technology is one area that has significantly evolved over the past few years and offers a lighter weight solution that enhances capability and offers a good value alternative to less newer materials such as carbon and polymer composites, steel, titanium and aluminium, as some of their disadvantages are becoming better understood.

Sustainability and the circular economy

Since COVID and COP26, stakeholders have different expectations on businesses now. Sustainability is redefining itself and has evolved from solely focusing on the sustainable materials, to also taking into account the entire product life cycle and the ability to reuse, which is where the circular economy comes in. The circular economy isn’t just about improving recycling, it also involves getting companies to conserve raw materials, convert waste and be more energy efficient through re-use, remanufacture and repair. This not only places far less demand on the use of materials but achieves as much as 70% of material savings, compared to the process of raw materials extraction as seen in the linear economy model. The Circularity Gap Report 2021 states that the circular economy currently accounts for a depressing 8.6 % of the entire world economy, reflecting the urgent need to find more sustainable ways for global resource extraction and processing. That’s why businesses have another great opportunity, through more ethical and sustainable recycling processes, to put back into their supply chains and avoid landfill. And as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, making products from waste has the capacity to increase overall GDP which in turn will boost the economy as a whole. It also encourages steady, continuous supply of materials for growing industries and individual businesses, something which is key bearing in mind the ongoing global supply shortages.

UK hub of innovation

As we look at ways to pull through the turbulent economy amid unparalleled times, industry must use the past two years as an opportunity to prompt radical change and not ignore the fact that COVID and COP26 are deafening wake-up calls, to ensure the UK becomes the leading global hub for technical innovation and sustainability by being one of the first countries to achieve NetZero status.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Claire Brown .

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