International Research Center for Sustainable Materials (IRCSM)

As a part of the ongoing efforts to achieve a sustainable society, the International Research Center for Sustainable Materials (IRCSM) was established in April 2004. The objective of the Center is to address various problems such as those encountered in the design, production, and usage of materials and the processing of materials that have exceeded their useful lifespan. Materials in a sustainable society refer to those that are manufactured at a low environmental load and at a reasonable cost while still delivering sufficient performance, which ensures economic processing after they surpass their useful lifespan.

Focusing on the development of materials and environmental-load reduction in their efforts to establish a low-carbon society, as well as a system to address impending resource and environmental problems, the Center has been performing a number of research activities through 11 of its core members. These individuals are involved in tasks such as inspecting the recycling process of industrially important materials and their byproducts, identifying boundary conditions for the design, production, and disposal of materials, and developing new materials with extra-long lifespans and low environmental loads. The Center is also engaged in highlighting certain materials such as silicon, which is used in the manufacture of photovoltaic cells, and rare metals, which should be recycled on a priority basis owing to their scarcity. Moreover, the Center is investigating various aspects of sustainability and emphasizes that optimal resource utilization strategies and the establishment of production/recycling processes are issues that must also be tackled, even beyond the Center’s period of activity.

Recently, research has been carried out not only on metallic materials but also on low environmental-load materials such as polymers. This research is promoting collaborative studies in Japan as well as abroad. In particular, the Center has established academic exchange programs at an international level, conducts collaborative projects with researchers abroad, and periodically holds a workshop in the USA. It has also set up branch offices at the University of Toronto, Kunming University of Science and Technology, among others, to facilitate international research activities. The Center and we, its members, would like to contribute to the realization of a sustainable society by taking full advantage of the opportunity given to us.

January 1, 2013

Director, Toru H. Okabe