Exergy and Life Cycle-Based Analysis
The concept of exergy, defined as “the maximum useful work which can be extracted from a system as it reversibly comes into equilibrium with its environment,” can be used in various fields such as industrial ecology or environmental engineering, in order to use energy more efficiently and minimize harmful impacts on the environment.
Since the late 1990s, the applications of exergy analysis have been extended into the realm of resource and environmental analysis, for developing integrated analytical frameworks. Not only do the merits of this framework make it an interesting analytical tool for researchers, but also, exergy analysis can be used as a decision-making tool for policy makers for making sustainable choices.
For example, the impacts of resource depletion are an integral part of environmental analysis; yet a major challenge in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) is to come up with methods to quantify resource depletion. Due to the fact that exergy provides a natural basis for assessing the efficiency of resources use, it has been shown that exergoenvironmental analysis is a more appropriate instrument to quantify the environmental problem of natural resource depletion. Moreover, with the aid of exergetic LCA, the immediate estimation of the exergetic efficiency of processes is provided as well as the comparison of different environmental impacts of different options.
This chapter presents a summary of exergoenvironmental analysis, and further, it will discuss methods to apply exergoenvironmental analysis, namely, cumulative exergy consumption (CExC), exergetic life cycle analysis (ELCA), and cumulative exergy extraction from the natural environment (CEENE). Finally, applications in improving resource efficiency and development of sustainable technologies and processes will be discussed.
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