Material Flow Analysis-Conceptual review

What is Material flow analysis:

Material flow analysis is a tool as well is an analytical procedure used for assessing the physical consequences of human activities and needs in the field of industrial ecology. The process consists of using spatial and temporal scales. Examples of accounting of material flows within certain industries and connected ecosystems determination of indicators of material usage, improving the method (material flow management) all fall within the purview of the material flow analysis. The other name for material flow analysis is substance flow analysis (SFA). Material flow process and the methodology consist of analysis in two basic approaches, systems as well as analytical approach of the process flow; where in the approach consist of system level material metabolism analysis. Material flow analysis is an industrial ecological model and is complementary to the life cycle assessment as well as input output systems. The significance and the application methodology of MFA in a country depends on many factors such as the mineral resource content in the country as well as the significance of the particular mineral in the country. And hence the countries are using various MFA procedures, For example Japan using 3R methodology for Material Flow Analysis. Dynamic MFA analysis forecasts the usage of the materials in the years to come.

MFA with reference to Steel making:

Material flow analysis of the steel alloy invariably contains the flow analysis of the constituents of the steel like Iron (Fe), Chromium (Cr) and Nickel (Ni). Material flow analysis of the steel making consists of the material flow analysis of all its constituents mentioned above. Also for the material mass balance, the flow analysis will consider the manufacturing of the chromium and nickel in other formats as well apart from the steel making process. Also assessment of steel consists of its analysis in the form of ferrite as well as austenite formats. Other constituents of stainless steel subjected to the material flow analysis include Vanadium, Molybdenum, Titanium, Niobium etc. The constituents in the material and the composition varies depends on the particular type of the stainless steel and hence the Material flow analysis (MFA) provides insight into these contents (Ichiro,2010).

Methodologies of MFA:

Material flow analysis basically consists of two approaches; Basically the approaches are formulated based on the type of the objective. For example the Material flow analysis can be conceptually divided into two broad categories of the models. Eco-toxicology methodology focuses on the materials and the substances that do result in the harm to the ecology through their environmental impacts. Material flow analysis of heavy metals is an example of this category. Other popular MFA method is the assessment based on the environmental sustainability; the process consists of the analysis of the materials in their structures and formats which is related to the sustainability of the materials.

Theoretical studies of MFA:

Industrial material metabolism is the basic concept behind the MFA. The process consists of the analysis of the material flows at different levels and the scales. The key objectives of the MFA may vary based on the relevance and the material selected for the analysis. For example in the toxicology perspective the issues covered are the material flow analysis of the hazardous materials and their flow patterns. Similarly the ecological balance and the restructuring point of view, the material structures and the flow patterns are considered in the Material flow analysis.

Classification methods of MFA:

Material flow analysis basically divided for a particular format based on the objectives. For example industrial toxicology and pollution prevention perspective based classification works on to minimize the hazardous material flows in the chosen scope of the industry. As well the eco-restructuring perspective works on to assess the structure and the volume of the materials as its main objective is dematerialization. The important outcomes of the process is the usage of the less primary material input. For the first class of the material flow analysis, the methods used are the substance flow analysis, bulk material flow analysis as well as life cycle assessment models.

An overview of the Material flow analysis works on to assess the material in the intake as well as the output type analyses. In the intake analysis, the assessment consists of the domestic extractions, unused domestic extractions, Imports, Indirect flows associated with imports. Output side MFA includes emissions and waste flows, dissipative use of the products and other associated losses, exports, unprocessed exports, indirect flows associated with the exports etc.

Even though material flow analysis is a broader term with diverse applicability in the content as well as in the scope wise, the particular method classification refers the particular methodology and the underlying objectives.

Applied studies of MFA

There is wide range of studies done with the Material Flow analysis. The applications of MFA studies do available on a wide range of issues. For example MFA works on the social-economical modeling and impact of the material resources usage patterns on the industrial applications. MFA studies are applied for the reduction of the overall pollution levels of hazardous materials. Also equally useful and in use is the study of the hazardous material flow and consumption patterns. Other applications of the Material flow analysis includes the exploration of the raw material value chains, with objectives of the exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution of the raw materials as well as land use planning. Generally the applications include the road map strategy for the raw material usage in the future years based on the data usage patterns. MFA analysis at the nationwide and on wide varieties of the materials includes the study of the material flow patterns for the study and maintenance of the societal metabolism. Socio - economic metabolism studies are the areas that usually require rigorous MFA application study, the industrial economy sustenance is the key factor that needs to be balanced through the Material flow analysis. Other applied studies of MFA include Environmental policy making etc .


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