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Sustainable Materials

Sustainable Materials

This lesson tackles the four major types of solid materials and then takes a deep dive into two fascinating materials - steel and carbon fibre. Steel has been the backbone of our society for well over a thousand years and everything futuristic seems to be made with carbon fibre. So what lessons can we learn from the past to make sure our future is as green and bright as possible? Is Carbon Fibre a magic material that will solve all our problems?

Get the learning materials ready first!

There is a presentation and a lesson plan to go along with this content. Teachers - if there are any issues or questions, please do email us at wmgoutreach@warwick.ac.uk.

The files can be downloaded by clicking these links:

Learning objectives

  • Know 4 categories of solid materials
    • Polymer, ceramic, metal and composite
  • Understand the properties of those categories of materials
  • Be aware of sustainability when thinking about what material a product should be made of
  • Know the three ‘R’s of recycling
    • Reduce, reuse, recycle

What materials can we build the future out of?

a model of the vehicle for Coventry's Very Light Rail project a scientist testing coin cells in a laboratory a person in a heat resistant suit putting items into a furnace A vehicle in a driving simulator an app that can support laser welding

So many things around you right now will depend on one specific material. Whether it's silicon in computer chips, copper wiring powering that computer, the glass that makes your screen, the plastics that hold it in place or the steel used to hold it all together, these materials have been designed to have one specific purpose.

Unfortunately, human society has been lazy in the past and we have tended to choose the simplest material possible to do a job. That means that at times we have made products that are single use only, or use more material than they need to, or are just plain wasteful! Think of all the materials that are shipped backwards and forwards across the entire ocean each day. There are better ways to make our products and be more sustainable while we do it.

To make products seem fancier, and therefore sell better, do companies make their products out of unsustainable materials instead of the infinitely recyclable steel that we've used for hundreds of years? One of those new and futuristic materials is carbon fibre. You may have heard of that one before! What is it? And is it actually as good as the futuristic shows, products and sports equipment make it seem? And the final question... is it actually sustainable and recyclable?

We'll answer all those questions in this session.

Your task for this lesson

There are two videos for you to watch. While you watch them, you should take notes and be ready to answer a true or false question at the end of the video.

Long Live Steel

Dr Russ Hall

Would you rather download this video to use in your lesson? You can download it in low or high resolution, with or without captions at the bottom of this page.

Questions

Which one of these answers is FALSE?

  • There are more types of steel than any other material
  • Steel is an alloy material
  • Steel is made mostly of copper
  • Steel is 100% recyclable

Carbon Fibre: A Black Future?

Dr Pete Wilson

Would you rather download this video to use in your lesson? You can download it in low or high resolution, with or without captions at the bottom of this page.

Questions

Which one of these answers is FALSE?

  • Carbon fibre can be conductive
  • Carbon fibre is easy to recycle
  • Carbon fibre is easy to produce
  • Carbon fibre is lightweight

Downloads for video files

Speaker Resolution/File Size Captions

Dr Russ Hall

Long Live Steel

480 (low) / 18 MB None Burned in
720 (medium) / 24 MB None Burned in
1080 (high) / 37 MB None Burned in

Dr Pete Wilson

Carbon Fibre: A Black Future

480 (low) / 30 MB None Burned in
720 (medium) / 42 MB None Burned in
1080 (high) / 64 MB None Burned in