Author: Thomas Vranken, Researcher – Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, University of Hasselt/EnergyVille
In our daily lives, we use products derived from many different metals, minerals, and natural materials. The European Commission maintains a list of ‘critical raw materials’ (CRMs). These are raw materials with high economic importance, which also carry a high supply risk. In many cases, these are sourced from outside the EU. Global competition for these materials is becoming more and more fierce. These materials play an essential role in a wide range of industrial ecosystems, as they are often vital components in the functioning of many technological innovations.
Gallium and indium, for instance, are essential elements in light-emitting diode (LED) based lighting applications, whereas semiconductors and photovoltaics need silicon metal. Platinum and other precious metals are found in the electrodes of hydrogen fuel cells and electrolysers. As such, in the years to come, it will become more and more essential to reduce the use of these raw materials (where possible) and to consider the options for reusing these materials first, before recycling them.
Coming to batteries, they are an important piece in the puzzle for global sustainable development and projections indicate that the demand for batteries will grow significantly in the next few years. To achieve sustainable production of Li-ion batteries, it is important to understand the critical raw materials required for their production and ensure a sustainable supply of these raw materials.
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