An energy sustainability metric

Dusan P. Sekulic, Rahul Nehete, Cheng Nien Yu, Hai Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In this paper we offer energy metric for evaluating the need for transformational technology in the context of resources management for sustainability. This metric measures the margin for improvement between the actual energy used and the theoretical minimum needed for the same task, irrespective of the technology considered. We first define the parameter space of sustainability metrics. Furthermore, we argue that, for any energy related sustainability study, the rate of change of the related process energy use (hence, ultimately at the lowest hierarchical level) has to be considered for a given task, not only for a given technology. Finally, we identify the margin between actual energy resources use and theoretical minimum. The paper offers, as an example, a study (at the process level) of a state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, broadly used in many applications, e.g., manufacturing of compact heat exchangers for the automotive industry. The margin between the theoretical minimum and the actual energy resources use for bonding an aluminium assembly by brazing is established. It is confirmed that the minimum theoretical energy resources needed, associated with a manufactured product, may be a number of orders of magnitude smaller than the actual energy resources used, irrespective of the technology implemented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-44
Number of pages8
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported in part by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation , NSF-CBET-1234581 for 2013/2014. An early version of this paper was presented at the 2013 ISSST conference in Cincinnati, USA. The plot of Fig. 1 was suggested in author's (DPS) Keynote lecture at the ECOS 2013 Conference in Guilin, China 2013 as a modification of the plot presented in a lecture at the Bern University of Science and Technology, Switzerland in 2011. Authors express a gratitude to Dr. Robert Gregory for his reading of an early draft of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Energy resources
  • Metrics
  • Sustainability
  • Transformational technologies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Building and Construction
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Pollution
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Energy (all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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