To achieve sustainable development in the aluminum life cycle, the aluminum industry involves a series of sectors such as bauxite, alumina, carbon electrodes, power supply, electrolytic aluminum, aluminum processing, and waste aluminum recycling. It is a resource and energy-intensive industry. It is also one of the important areas for my country’s material industry to save energy, reduce emissions, and take a low-carbon road. “Nie Zuoren, a professor at Beijing University of Technology, said at the high-level forum on the promotion of aluminum applications held recently, aluminum is a key basic material for the construction and development of the national economy, and is widely used in construction, transportation, packaging, power, aerospace, machine manufacturing, and information industries. And so on in various fields.
Achieve sustainable development during the aluminum life cycle
Since entering the 21st century, the International Aluminum Association (IAI) and multinational aluminum companies in developed countries have successively formulated the “World Alumina Technology Development Guide” and the “Aluminum Industry Technology Development Guide” to determine products and markets, energy and resources, Three goals of sustainable development, and support the adoption of the international standard environmental management and evaluation quantitative analysis tool-Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method to assess the impact of aluminum production on climate change and the sustainable development of the aluminum industry.
“One of the main goals of the aluminum industry to respond to climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at all stages of the aluminum product life cycle.” Nie Zuoren analyzed that aluminum is widely used in the transportation field because of its lighter weight. It can not only reduce energy Consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, and its lightweight characteristics are still the key to the development of the aerospace industry. Another important sustainability feature of aluminum is its recycling capacity, which is also an important part of the evaluation and research of greenhouse gas emission reduction in the life cycle of aluminum products.
As early as 1992, the European Aluminum Association (EAA) started the collection of life cycle indicator data involving aluminum production and manufacturing enterprises in major European countries, and published the first ecological overview report in 1996. The research results of the greenhouse gas emission inventory at each stage of the aluminum life cycle show that the electricity consumption in the aluminum electrolysis process, the direct emissions from the aluminum electrolysis process and the alumina production are the main stages of greenhouse gas emissions in the aluminum industry chain, and three stages account for its entire life. 83% of periodic emissions.
The sustainability attribute is the ability to recycle aluminum. “The energy required for the production of secondary aluminum is only about 5% of the energy required to extract primary aluminum from ore. At the same time, the high intrinsic value of aluminum scrap makes recycling economically attractive.” Nie Zuoren is full of confidence in aluminum applications. It is estimated that about 75% of the primary aluminum produced in the world is still being recycled. The current level of technology can guarantee the quality of aluminum and its alloys during remelting and reuse. Therefore, recycling is the basis for the sustainability of most aluminum products. It not only saves raw materials and energy, but also reduces dependence on landfill sites.
Aluminum applications can reduce carbon dioxide emissions
Research by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that nearly 20% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the transportation sector. The transportation industry plays an important role in the development of human society and economy. Therefore, it must provide services for mankind in a safer, energy-saving and environmentally friendly way. However, in 2000 alone, the use of vehicles emitted about 7.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases, and this number is still increasing.
“Under the current technical conditions, the use of aluminum materials in the design of auto parts has obvious advantages in energy saving and greenhouse gas emission reduction.” Nie Zuoren said.
According to the research report of the International Society of Automotive Engineers, the primary energy consumption and environmental impact of the three front-end components of steel, aluminum, and magnesium, including the recycling of materials, vary greatly during the entire life cycle of the car.
If the driving distance is used as a benchmark for comparison, when the transportation distance of a car using magnesium alloy material as a component reaches 128,000 kilometers, the energy consumption of the car with magnesium parts and steel parts during its entire life cycle is equal. In other words, because magnesium consumes much more energy in the production stage of raw materials than steel, only after this critical transportation distance is exceeded, cars using magnesium components will show the effect of energy saving.
Compared with aluminum and steel, when the corresponding critical transportation distance reaches 35,000 kilometers, the total energy consumption is the same.
Considering the current technological level and the life cycle of 200,000 kilometers of vehicles, aluminum has better environmental performance than magnesium. Similarly, there are huge differences in the greenhouse gas emissions of the front-end components of steel, aluminum, and magnesium during the entire life cycle of the car. Compared with steel, the production of magnesium components will emit more greenhouse gases. Therefore, compared with the critical transportation distance (128,000 kilometers) in the energy consumption assessment, the critical distance (144,000 kilometers) of magnesium and steel in greenhouse gas emissions is larger. In the early part of its life cycle (after the transportation distance of 35,000 kilometers), the aluminum front-end components have better greenhouse gas emission reduction effects than steel and magnesium.
Reducing the weight of transportation vehicles is an important way to reduce energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve fuel efficiency. The Energy and Environmental Research Institute (IFEU) of the Heidelberg Environmental Research Center (IFEU) studied the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of different types of vehicles in the use phase after implementing lightweight measures. Studies have shown that during the life cycle of a vehicle, a car can save 300 to 800 liters of fuel by reducing its mass by 100 kilograms, while for taxis and city buses, the fuel can be saved by more than 2500 liters; at the same time, it is reduced by about 9 per kilometer. Greenhouse gas emissions per gram of carbon dioxide equivalent, which proves that lightweighting has important and positive significance for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the automotive industry.
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