8 Feb 2024

Sustainable Materials: Key Enablers for a Worldwide Environmental, Social and Economic Transformation

In a recent Correspondence to Nature Materials, WISE-affiliated researchers urge scholars to expand the envelope of sustainability and circularity in Materials Science research with a systematic perspective.

We live in an era of great challenges created by our own human activities, that affect our planet at large. Climate change, chemical pollution, reduced biodiversity and limited natural resources threaten our society compelling us to seek sustainable solutions urgently.

In an open Correspondence recently published in the journal Nature Materials entitled “Advanced materials provide solutions towards a sustainable world”, the authors and WISE-affiliated researchers urge scholars to broaden the scope of sustainability and circularity within materials research to also address our environmental and societal challenges. There is a critical call for a fresh perspective on sourcing materials in a sustainable manner, using digital tools, reimagining product design and manufacturing, and implementing business models that adapt to market demands—all while safeguarding human health and the environment, and striving to disconnect raw material usage from economic growth.

–Materials science holds a unique position to contribute to achieve an environmental, social and economic transformation by designing new sustainable materials with no or very low impact on our environment, where theory, synthesis and characterization are key components, says Lars Hultman, Professor at Linköping University and first author of the Letter.

The Letter also discusses WISE’s views on collaborative research efforts between industry and academia. While industry is spearheading the green transition, liaison with academia is crucial for achieving a materials revolution. Priorities such as enhancing energy efficiency, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, phasing out hazardous chemicals, and responsibly managing water and land resources to preserve biodiversity should be at the forefront according to the authors. Emphasizing the pivotal role of advanced functional materials as catalysts for sustainability, the Letter underscores the need for targeted research in materials discovery, digitalization, and re-engineering processes to minimize energy and material consumption.

The Letter ends with a resounding call-to-action, urging research-funding agencies, public as well as private, to intensify their efforts and pace to areas with the greatest potential for fostering innovations to address our global challenges.

The full article can be found at: https://rdcu.be/dzpAG (open access link) or https://www.nature.com/articles/s41563-023-01778-9