The Role of Material Efficiency in Industrial Decarbonization

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper

Assistant Professor,
Mechanical Engineering,
University of Michigan


Friday, December 2, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

(1-hour seminar, followed by a pizza lunch)


In Person: Room 151, Chrysler Center, 2121 Bonisteel Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Virtual: Via Zoom

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The Role of Material Efficiency in Industrial Decarbonization


Miki Banu | ISD Associate Chair for Doctoral Education and Research

Collegiate Research Professor | Mechanical Engineering

Judy Jin | ISD Manufacturing Program Director | Professor of IOE


Industry already accounts for approximately one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions and these emissions are growing quickly as the developing world industrializes and emissions-intensive materials are used to deliver better performing technologies. We need sustainable materials processing solutions that fit the scale and urgency of the challenge. However, the relevant data for informed decision making on emerging process technologies and supply chains is often sparse and noisy. We develop Bayesian techniques for rapid quantification and updating of environmental model uncertainties, demonstrated for the case of laser powder bed fusion and the U.S. steel supply chain. Such modeling reveals the potential for material efficiency (providing engineering services with less material production from natural resources) as a carbon abatement strategy. We highlight its critical role in the decarbonization of key sectors, particularly before midcentury while low-carbon electricity grids and fuels are still being developed. We identify opportunities for material efficiency across the product life cycle and then focus on manufacturing process innovations for reduction and reuse of light metal scrap and increased end-of-life metal recycling in the face of increasing scrap contamination and changing demand. Finally, we discuss some of the most critical developments needed for material efficiency to become widespread and make significant contributions to the decarbonization of global industry.

Speaker Bio:

Dan Cooper is an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering department at the University of Michigan. He heads the Resourceful Manufacturing and Design (ReMaDe) group, which is dedicated to pursuing environmental sustainability through process innovations in resource efficiency and optimized manufacturing and recycling supply chains. Dan’s work is at the nexus between Industrial Ecology (IE) and Engineering: he uses IE methodologies such as material flow analyses and life cycle assessment to identify opportunities and quantify impacts at the process, factory, and supply chain scale, and then pursues an experimental and mechanistic modeling approach to generate the knowledge underlying those opportunities. Dan received all his degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cambridge before completing a post-doc at MIT. He is the recipient of the 2020 ASME Ben C. Sparks Education Medal, and the 2020 SME Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award.