Materials Systems Laboratory - Current Projects

Product Attribute to Impact Algorithm (PAIA)

Quantifying a product's energy and carbon footprint is time-consuming and resource intensive, and the results are often uncertain, yet increasingly it is a necessary task as carbon footprint certifications are required by a growing number of countries, corporations, and industry associations. In response to this challenge, MSL is building on existing work in the field to develop a streamlined methodology to calculate the primary drivers behind carbon and energy impact that attempts to minimize the need for data collection and user input while still providing actionable insight. Originally developed for information technology industries and now extending to other product types, the PAIA methodology focuses on quantifying uncertainty in life cycle activity and impact data to triage data collection efforts and understand the product attributes that drive impact.

Product-Based Life Cycle Analysis

This ongoing project, conducted in collaboration with Procter & Gamble, compares the environmental lifecycle impact of several P&G products and product packaging in order to understand the primary drivers of environmental impact and identify strategies to reduce environmental impact.

Assessing the Economic and Environmental Impact of Battery Collection Schemes

This work with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the California Integrated Waste Management Board uses network models and life cycle assessment to evaluate the economic and environmental impacts of battery recycling to determine the conditions under which recycling should occur.

LCA Impact Assessment Analysis

The goal of this work is to explore several major analytical variations of LCA implementations and the implications of these variants across a range of application contexts. Specifically, this research examines analytical variations in valuation method and treatment of recycling by exploring allocation methods that affect product end-of-life.

Fleet-Based Analysis of Life Cycle Assessment in Automobiles

This work demonstrated that for some product lines, all the products in use, rather than a single product, should be the appropriate unit of analysis. Such a "fleet-centered" approach supplies a richer perspective on the comparative emissions burdens generated by alternative products, and it eliminates certain simplifying assumptions imposed upon the analysis by a product-centered approach.

Materials Scarcity

This work examines how recycling provides benefit as a risk-mitigating strategy against scarcity because recycling can diversify the risks of primary supply instabilities and reduce the impact of price fluctuations upon firms. The experimental platform for this examination is a System Dynamics simulation model that strives to capture the dynamics of a particular material's market supply, demand and price, focused initially on platinum.

Electronics Recycling

Our work in electronics recycling with HP and the MIT|Portugal Program examines the effect of system architecture on the economic and environmental performance of consumer durable goods recycling systems.

Aluminum Recycling Strategy

This work has investigated increasing recycled aluminum usage in production by developing models that explicitly capture uncertainties in aluminum demand and scrap aluminum supply (price, composition, and availability). We have also developed models to evaluate upgrading strategies, such as sorting and segregation, as well as materials flow analysis of end-of-life aluminum. This work has been developed with the support of several industrial partners including Hydro Aluminum Metal Products, Aleris International, and Alcoa.

Mapping Economic Cost (Quantifying the Cost of New Materials and Processes)

This work involves developing cost models of alternative materials, technologies, and manufacturing strategies for General Motors. We also have projects in mapping economic costs of optoelectronics through a consortium of relevant companies.

Vehicle Lightweighting

This work examines the cost, value, and implementation strategies for both primary and secondary weight savings for automobiles for General Motors. This work also has mapped the impact of vehicle lightweighting on fuel economy.