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Critical Materials - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780128187890, 9780128187906

Critical Materials

1st Edition

Author: Alexander King
Paperback ISBN: 9780128187890
eBook ISBN: 9780128187906
Imprint: Elsevier
Published Date: 21st October 2020
Page Count: 276
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Table of Contents

1: Why are we worried?  The rare earth crisis and its impacts.

2: This is not new.  A short history of supply-chain failures.
Copper and the end of the Bronze Age
The Venetian monopoly on glass
The wars of the twentieth century
Cobalt (1978)
Molybdenum (1980 and 2004)
Rhenium (2006-2008)
Lessons learned

3: Assessing the Risks.
Defining and measuring criticality
What criticality is and is not
Comparisons among different assessments
Technological, social and economic factors causing criticality to rise
Tipping points.  What takes us from criticality to crisis?
Lessons learned

4: Impacts.  What changed when supply crises happened?
Impacts on existing technologies (case studies)
Impacts on emerging technologies (case studies)
Lessons learned

5: Mitigating Criticality, part I.  Technology Substitution.
Making do without a material
Costs and trade-offs
Short and long-term solutions
Lessons learned

6: Mitigating Criticality, part II.  Material Substitution.
The new challenge of inventing materials on demand
Effective R&D tools and techniques
Building research teams
Materials Genome Initiative
A few successes
Lessons learned

7: Mitigating Criticality, part III.  Source Diversification.
How are mines developed?
Conventional mines
Unconventional sources
Lessons learned

8: Mitigating Criticality, part IV.  Reuse and Recycling.
Urban mines vs. conventional mines
Technological vs. regulatory solutions
Successes and failures
Lessons learned

9: Tactical Responses to Crises and Strategies for Avoiding Them.
Starting preparations sooner
Shortening the R&D timeline
Reducing complexity – lessons from nature.


Critical Materials takes a case-study approach, describing materials supply-chain failures from the bronze age to present day. It looks at why these failures occurred, what the consequences were, and how they were resolved. It identifies key lessons to guide responses to current and anticipated materials shortages at a time when the world’s growing middle class is creating unprecedented demand for manufactured products and the increasingly exotic materials that go into them. This book serves as a guide to materials researchers and industrial end-users for finding effective approaches to shortages of specialty materials.

The lessons in the book are also appropriate to those who use materials and for those involved in manufacturing supply-chain management and industrial design.

Key Features

  • Instructs the reader on how to select the most effective strategies to deal with materials supply-chain failures
  • Discusses technical feasibility, economic viability and the political context
  • Includes an extensive use of case studies to illustrate key concepts of criticality


Materials scientists, materials engineers in industry, supply chain managers, government officials


No. of pages:
© Elsevier 2021
21st October 2020
Paperback ISBN:
eBook ISBN:

Ratings and Reviews

About the Author

Alexander King

Alex King is a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Iowa State University. He earned his doctorate from Oxford University and did his post-doc work at both Oxford University and MIT. He went on to join the faculty at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he also served as the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies (Dean of the Graduate School). He was the Head of the School of Materials Engineering at Purdue from 1999 to 2007. From 2008 until 2013 he was the Director of DOE’s Ames Laboratory and became the Founding Director of the Critical Materials Institute from 2013 through 2018. Dr. King is a Fellow of the Institute of Mining Minerals and Materials; ASM International; and the Materials Research Society. He was also a Visiting Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in 1996 and a US Department of State Jefferson Science Fellow for 2005-06. He served as the President of MRS in 2002, Chair of the University Materials Council of North America from 2006-07, Co-chair of the Gordon Conference on Physical Metallurgy in 2006, and Chair of the APS Interest Group on Energy Research and Applications for 2010. Dr. King was named the recipient of the 2019 Acta Materialia Hollomon Award for Materials and Society. Alex King delivered a TEDx talk on critical materials in 2013 and was the TMS & ASM Distinguished Lecturer on Materials and Society in 2017. He is currently a scientific adviser for Harvard’s Material Alchemy (described as “translating science into commercial products that use sustainable materials”) and a member of the Advisory Board of CHiMaD (the Center for Hierarchical Materials Design, funded by the Department of Commerce, and led by Northwestern University).

Affiliations and Expertise

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Iowa State University, USA.