Resource-efficient manufacturing is vital as we transition from a linear to a circular economy in which materials and energy resources are critical. We see this theme within the Manufacturing Futures Lab, as focussing on the transformation of wastes into key resources such that the entire manufacturing process becomes aligned to a strategy of sustainable production and resource efficiency, through the creation of goods and services using processes and systems that conserve resources, maximise recovery, reuse, and recycle and minimise waste. In support of this vision the theme will seek to respond to the significant scientific and technological challenges through the development of innovative resource-efficient and low-carbon economy solutions.
Imperial College, through its interdisciplinary collaborative networks, aims to be an international leader in resource-efficient manufacturing research, working in partnership with business, industry and other key stakeholders. The theme is relevant to a wide range of industries including those involved in the manufacture of goods, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, plastics, electronics, metals and mining, paper and printing, food processing and packaging. We will advance underpinning fundamental science, conduct holistic product design, develop innovative technological solutions, and demonstrate resource-efficient manufacturing across a variety of key industrial sectors, through user-led applications.
The Resource Efficiency Research Group applies rigorous science and engineering to develop solutions for major problematic waste streams.
Value Recovery from Wastes: Materials and Minerals
Resource-efficient solutions have been developed for industry on a range of difficult and problematic materials including incinerator bottom ash and air pollution control residues from energy from waste facilities, pulverised fuel ash from coal fired power stations, sewage sludge ash from sludge incineration, paper sludge ash, fines from aggregate washing, mixed colour glass, spent bleaching earth from the edible oil industry, oil drill cuttings, secondary and low grade ores, and food wastes.
Energy from Waste
The generation of energy from waste (EfW) in highly engineered and controlled facilities is becoming increasingly central to waste management in a resource efficient society. EfW provides an effective means of recovering value from domestic, commercial and industrial wastes. It is compatible with high rates of commercially viable recycling, and enables extraction of energy and resources from the residual material. EfW has the potential to supply about 10% of future UK electricity requirements and can also supply large quantities of heat energy as a community resource. It is reliable and secure, and can provide a continuous source of “base load” generation, unlike many other forms of renewable energy. It does not rely on imported energy from countries that may be subject to changeable political regimes. Increasing regulatory development over the past three decades has resulted in stringent controls on air emissions from EfW facilities, preventing harm to the environment and public health. EfW reduces greenhouse gas emissions by diverting waste from landfill, where it would generate methane, and by displacing CO2 emitted from fossil-fuelled energy generation. A further £10-20 billion of investment in UK waste management infrastructure is expected by 2020.
Research is focussed across a broad range of topics including the agricultural recycling of sewage sludge, bio-solids and bio-wastes, environmental impact assessment, nutrients, heavy metals, pathogens, the assessment of agronomic benefit, home composting, bio-drying, biofuels and in-situ bioremediation.
Collaborative Research Centres
- Environmental and Water Resource Engineering
- Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network
- Ellen MacArthur Foundation
- National Industrial Symbiosis Programme
- Energy from Waste Research and Technology Council
- Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council