Iron remains in the economic cycle significantly longer than gold and technology metals.
Metallic resources from iron to cobalt and gold are indispensable to industry. A research team from the universities of Bayreuth, Augsburg and Bordeaux has developed a modeling procedure for the useful life of 61 of these raw materials. This comprises the period between their extraction and their fine distribution into the environment, i.e. the point in time at which they can no longer be used economically and have to be replaced by new material.
According to a press release from the University of Bayreuth, this useful life varies greatly depending on the raw material. Iron and steel alloy metals remain in the economic cycle the longest, with an average of 150 years. This is due to the efficiency of industrial processes and high recycling rates. By contrast, the useful life of technology metals such as indium and cobalt is only about twelve years.
In view of these results, Prof. Dr. Christoph Helbig, who holds the Chair of Ecological Resource Technology at the University of Bayreuth, calls for ways to extend the useful life of metals and avoid material losses by closing economic cycles as far as possible.
The study was published in the journal Nature (paywall).