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Welcome to Industrial Ecology Freiburg!

A sustainable society is the result of many different development strategies. These strategies include technical solutions like electric vehicles and renewable energies but also economic incentives, legal regulations, and changing social norms. Together, these strategies will transform society's biophysical basis to a more sustainable state. We help to design this transformation by estimating the maximal global emissions savings potential of specific strategies, by assessing their consequences on humans, industry, and nature, and by studying interactions between strategies. We model the biophysical basis of society as complex industrial ecosystem, focusing on industrial processes, especially those for metal production and refining, as the metal industries alone account for about one third of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

General information can be found on these pages; for news, blog entries, and data we refer to our research portal.

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Our research area: industrial ecology

We study the long-term consequences and interactions between a wide spectrum of sustainable development strategies, with focus on the material industries and the building and transport sectors. We apply an approach termed environmental systems analysis, or, more catchy, industrial ecology. Our model results inform decision makers and the general public about the overall emissions mitigation potential and possible conflicts between or constraints of sustainable development strategies. Our work is part of the field of industrial ecology, the science of industrial systems. Stefan Pauliuk, professor for sustainable energy and material flow management at the University of Freiburg, leads the group.

Our results are interesting for all actors that are interested in sustainable development on the system level. The scope of the systems approach clearly goes beyond the scale of single products and consumer decisions, as it comprises the whole supply chain or the complete material cycles. Next to the scientific community, our target group includes resource policy makers, NGOs, industry and business associations, and all interested companies and citizens.

We offer research positions, thesis opportunities, and teaching related to industrial ecology.

Our research method:

We develop computer models of industrial systems like the steel industry to assess the long-term and system-wide consequences of specific sustainable development strategies. We focus on energy and material efficiency in industrial processes and consumer products. We use these models to build scenarios for future material and metal cycles and their energy demand and emissions. The scenarios inform policy makers about the possible contribution of individual industrial and end-use sectors to global and national climate targets. Our models combine the established tools material flow analysis (MFA), life cycle assessment (LCA), and inpout-output analysis (IO) to tackle novel research questions. We also contribute to the theory and the development of these methods.  

Want to know more? We provide a detailed description of our research and a complete list of our publications.

Our community:

Our research is part of industrial ecology, an interdisciplinary branch of the sustainability sciences. The field was developed during the 90ies to find robust answers to increasingly complex questions, such as the overall environmental effects of renewable energy, the impact of resource scarcity and criticality on technology deployment, the positive and negative effects of energy and material efficiency, and the linkages between consumption and remote environmental impacts. The central approach of the field is systems thinking, exemplified by the frequent application of the methods material flow analysis (MFA), life cycle assessment (LCA), and multiregional input-output-analysis (MRIO).

Researchers from the group are active in the International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE).