Sustainable Engineering

Development of a comprehensive approach to modeling the availability of abiotic resources in the context of sustainable development

Development of a comprehensive approach to modeling the availability of abiotic resources in the context of sustainable development

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Dissertation online:


Abiotic resources play an essential role in technological developments and are the basis for economic growth. Since abiotic resources, particularly mineral resources, are not inherently renewable, a potential scarcity of these resources is of increasing concern. The analysis of resource use is becoming more difficult due to the high complexity and number of materials used. In order to support decision-making at product level in favor of sustainable development, easily applicable methods for assessing resource scarcity must be developed. Although resource availability has been discussed for a long time, there are still no standardized indicators or methods. Previous approaches mostly relate only to the ecological availability of resources in the long term and thus neglect the direct connection between resource availability, technological progress and prosperity. For this reason, the assessment of resource availability needs to be expanded and seen as a sustainability problem, rather than an environmental problem.

The aim of this dissertation is to develop a methodological framework for assessing various aspects of resource scarcity. A comprehensive approach was developed, taking into account all dimensions of sustainable development. The various dimensions were quantified using robust models that can be used directly for product evaluation. A distinction was made between physical scarcity (due to the depletion of natural resources) and effective scarcity (due to restrictions in the supply chains).

In order to enable a more realistic view of physical scarcity, a new parameterization of existing characterization models for evaluating resource consumption was proposed in this dissertation. It is not the extraction of the minerals from the environment itself that is worrying, but rather the dissipative use and thus the loss of these materials. For this reason, anthropogenic reserves were also taken into account for a holistic view of resource reserves. In addition, various models for the analysis of effective scarcity were developed. To assess the actual scarcity, the effects of potential restrictions within the supply chains were considered. The risk of economic, ecological or social restrictions occurring was assessed using various developed methods and taking relevant criteria into account.

The evaluation of the various dimensions of resource availability makes it clear that resources do not have to be geologically scarce in order to be subject to a high supply risk. The comprehensive approach thus enables new insights into the availability of resources from a short-term and long-term perspective. Based on the methods developed, the use of abiotic resources can be comprehensively assessed with regard to their potential economic, ecological or social scarcity.


Dipl.-Ing. Vanessa Bach
Room Z 107
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