327-2146-00L  Raw Materials: From Earth to Consumer (and back)

SemesterAutumn Semester 2023
LecturersW. J. Malfait
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish


327-2146-00 VRaw Materials: From Earth to Consumer (and back)2 hrs
Mon15:45-17:30HCI D 2 »
W. J. Malfait

Catalogue data

AbstractEach year, we extract and process a staggering amount of resources from the Earth and biosphere to cover our needs and appetite for housing, energy, transport, nutrition, technology and consumer goods. In this course, we investigate the material cycles primarily from a technical and scientific perspective (geoscience & biosphere, process engineering, material science).
ObjectiveAt the end of the course, the students should have a qualitative and quantitative understanding of where most of the materials around them come from, how they were processed, how they got to where they are used, and what happens to them after use. The students should be able to:
- Answer the question where the world's raw materials come from within the earth and biosphere.
- For the most important elements, describe where the major deposits are located and in which geological setting.
- Explain how these resources are mined and how the commodities are extracted from the ore.
- Estimate how much material we consume globally in terms of volume and value.
- Analyse why certain materials suddenly become critical and expensive.
- Evaluate whether there are alternatives to digging things up from the ground and plan (or decide) with recycling and sustainability in mind.
- Independently research a specific raw material and compile a summary of its cycle and value chain.
ContentThe earth from a materials' perspective
Coal, oil and gas – not just energy, but a materials resource
Phosphor and nitrogen – how we feed 8 billion people
Biological resources
Sand, gravel and limestone – how we build infrastructure
Copper keeps the light on
Iron versus Aluminum
Noble metals – small volume, big business
Rare earth elements – when demand and supply do not match
Lithium gold rush
Student presentations on selected topics
Raw materials – how geopolitics, industry, and activists shape policy
Gemstones & curiosities
Lecture notesLecture notes & presentations will be provided in electronic format.
Prerequisites / NoticeStudents signing up should have a strong interest in both the natural and man-made world around them.

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits3 credits
ExaminersW. J. Malfait
Typesession examination
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionThe performance assessment is offered every session. Repetition possible without re-enrolling for the course unit.
Mode of examinationwritten 120 minutes
Additional information on mode of examinationSubstantial contribution on a selected topic: presentation and preparation of one-page data sheet on a selected element (1/3 of grade).
Written aidsNone
This information can be updated until the beginning of the semester; information on the examination timetable is binding.

Learning materials

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Only public learning materials are listed.


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Offered in

Materials Science MasterElective CoursesWInformation