Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficient production processes and the highest practical rates of recycling may not be enough to result in dematerialization rates that would be high enough to negate the rising demand for materials generated by continuing population growth and rising standards of living.
Materials and Dematerialization considers the principal materials used throughout history, from wood and stone, through to metals, alloys, plastics and silicon, describing their extraction and production as well as their dominant applications. The evolving productivities of material extraction, processing, synthesis, finishing and distribution, and the energy costs and environmental impact of rising material consumption are examined in detail, along with the relationship between socio-economic development and resource use, including major technological and innovation aspects. Materials and Dematerialization concludes with an outlook for the future, discussing the prospects for dematerialization, potential constraints on materials, and an updated appraisal of material requirements and prospects during the coming decades.
Building on the success of his 2013 book, Vaclav Smil has thoroughly revised this landmark text to highlight advances that have taken place over the last decade, including a thorough review of statistics and references to 2022. This updated edition also includes new content to explicitly address material for global energy transition and for securing food for a still-growing global population.
Preface: Why and How
1 What Gets Included
2 How We Got Here
- Materials used by organisms
- Materials in prehistory
- Ancient and medieval materials
- Materials in the early modern era
- Creating modern material civilization
- Materials in the 20th century
3 What Matters Most
- Construction materials
- Industrial gases
- Materials in electronics
4 How the Materials Flow
- Material flow accounts4 How The Materials Flow
- US and European material flows
- Materials in China's modernization
- Energy cost of materials
- Life-cycle assessments
5 Are We Dematerializing?
- Apparent dematerializations
- Relative dematerialization: specific weight reductions Consequences of dematerialization
- Relative dematerialization in modern economies
- Decarbonization and desulfurization
6 Material Outlook
- Natural resources
- Materials for energy transition
- Wasting less
- Circular economy; an impossible goal
- Limits of dematerialization
Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, Canada. His interdisciplinary research interests span the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production, history of technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy. He has published more than 40 books. Prof. Smil is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy), and a Member of the Order of Canada.
Praise for the first edition:
"Vaclav Smil keeps turning out amazing books. Making the Modern World, I just finished, and it's pretty fantastic."
– Interview with Bill Gates, January 2014