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Solution for Critical Raw Materials - an European Export Network (SCRREEN)

Where and how are critical materials currently used and how can this information be used to develop scenarios about their future demand.

2017  -   2019
S.P. Deetman
European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme

A full list of all 30 partners in the project can be found at the project website

Short abstract

The SCRREEN project aims to establish a long-lasting Expert Network on raw materials classified as Critical Raw Materials; this network will combine forces to address issues throughout the entire supply chain or CRMs including mining, processing, recycling, substitution and final applications.

Project description

Modern technologies like solar panels, but also smartphones and laptops, often rely on so called critical materials to function. Such materials, like cobalt and platinum, are called ‘critical’ because they are essential to the economy, but their supply might become limited for various reasons. Either because there simply isn’t much of it available in the earth’s crust, or for example when it is only mined in a few countries.

The European Union wants to know which materials may actually be limited in their supply. In order to address this question we need to better understand the material supply chains. Research in this field is currently scattered, so part of the project’s aim is to review the current knowledge on the use of critical raw materials. This review involves the current use and demand trends, as well as scenario studies about the expected future demand for critical raw materials.

An assessment of the current use of critical raw materials is based on the knowledge in the SCRREEN expert network, and by reviewing existing literature. Subsequently, trends in the demand for products like cars and appliances are estimated. This eventually gives us a better understanding of the challenge in terms of future raw material demand. But it could also help to identify solutions, for example by detailing the availability of waste and recyclable materials. This information is crucial when striving towards a circular economy.

Leiden University is part of the SCRREEN expert network. In particular, the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) adds their expertise in Material Flow Analysis and environmental analysis at the product-level, such as Life Cycle Assessment.

A better understanding of the demand and supply of critical raw materials is important because modern technologies rely on these materials. Metals like neodymium, for example, are essential in highly efficient wind-mills, while cobalt is an element required in batteries for electric vehicles. So critical raw materials are needed in the renewable energy systems of the future.

For a list of reports related to this topic, please see the project website

Material scarcity may have effects on renewable energy systems:

Learn more about critical raw materials in our MOOC:

the ProSUM project provides a database on use of critical raw materials:

More on critical raw materials in the European Union: