Criticality of metals and metalloids

T. E. Graedel, E. M. Harper, N. T. Nassar, Philip Nuss, Barbara K. Reck, B. L. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

490 Scopus citations


Imbalances between metal supply and demand, real or anticipated, have inspired the concept of metal criticality. We here characterize the criticality of 62 metals and metalloids in a 3D "criticality space" consisting of supply risk, environmental implications, and vulnerability to supply restriction. Contributing factors that lead to extreme values include high geopolitical concentration of primary production, lack of available suitable substitutes, and political instability. The results show that the limitations for many metals important in emerging electronics (e.g., gallium and selenium) are largely those related to supply risk; those of platinum group metals, gold, and mercury, to environmental implications; and steel alloying elements (e.g., chromium and niobium) as well as elements used in high-temperature alloys (e.g., tungsten and molybdenum), to vulnerability to supply restriction. The metals of most concern tend to be those available largely or entirely as byproducts, used in small quantities for highly specialized applications, and possessing no effective substitutes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4257-4262
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 7 2015


  • Economic geology
  • Materials science
  • Substitution
  • Supply risk
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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