Exploring Material Energy Nexus and Criticality Mitigation Strategies: A Case Study on Power Batteries

Youth Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China 2020.01-2022.12


There is an ongoing grand transition to low-carbon energy worldwide. Critical material, such as rare earth elements, cobalt, are indispensable for the
development of emerging energy technologies. Given there is an ongoing grand
transition to low-carbon energy worldwide, it becomes increasingly important to
explore the critical material-energy technology nexus and to identify its life cycle mitigation strategies. We thus aim to examine China’s power battery technology transition and its corresponding five types of previously-identified critical materials (i.e. lead, lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese) as a case study.

In particular, this project is proposed to include three research stages:
firstly, it will construct an anthropogenic material cycle framework for each
critical material to quantify its stocks and flows along this cycle, and then
explore the role of technology innovation and promotion in each life cycle stage
in determining its corresponding material stocks and flows. Accordingly, a novel
Critical Material and Technology Nexus (CMTN) Model can be developed; Secondly, this model is proposed to be applied to quantify the material flow and stocks of those five critical materials along material cycle and to explore its interaction patterns with power battery technical transition in China annually from 1990 to 2015; Finally, according to various technical roadmaps (2017-2030), this project then aims to develop several scenarios with the identification of the potential combination of various strategies related to material use along the entire life cycle. For each scenario, the future material flows and stocks will be estimated
with CMTN model for each critical material along its life cycle and their
potential supply risks will also be analyzed. The overall project can help to
improve our understanding of the material-energy nexus,to form effective policies for the government to promote the simultaneous management of critical material and emerging energy technologies, and to enhance the global competitiveness for manufacturers related to energy technology in China.


Minerals; Industrial Ecology; Material Flow Analysis; Sustainable Resources Management; Life Cycle Engineering