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jet-engine-371412_1920Chemistry plays a part in the global challenge of managing and planning for the future of resources on our planet. Many materials used in pharmaceuticals, power generators, smart phone batteries, cars, jet engines, and solar cells (to name just a few) are deemed to be critical, because they are important to our life and economy, but at risk of short supply. These materials contain certain elements within the periodic table that may be regarded as ‘strategic elements’; they are of importance to the strategies needed for the future directions of technology.

What is the role of the Chemist in looking after strategic elements?

Chemistry researchers are interested in establishing new ways to recover metals from electronic waste, as well as reducing the dependency of new technology on strategic elements, by either applying new technology (i.e. nanotechnology) that performs better with less material, or substituting critical materials with more available resources. To get an idea of how much electrical waste the average british person disposes of in their lifetime, take a look at the WEEE Man.

The launch of the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials marks the beginning of a great new centre of experts from science, economics, business and law. This centre aims to develop new science to allow us to address the challenges posed by supply constraints on strategic elements and critical materials.It is important not only to understand the science behind our global resources, as many of the problems encountered by strategic and critical materials are driven by economic or political factors.

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