Dr. Kirchain’s research and teaching explores the impact of materials-technology decisions on the economic and environmental performance of the products into which those materials are transformed and the systems in which they are produced, used, and eventually discarded.
The choice of material potentially has sweeping implications on the realization of a product. Materials dictate available production processes, and therefore the physical constraints within which a designer must work. Similarly, the synergism of design, materials, and process affect the environmental impacts associated with a product’s manufacture, its use, and its ultimate disposal. As such, understanding the implications of a materials-technology decision requires characterizing the effects that occur throughout every stage of the material/product life-cycle.
To address this, Dr. Kirchain’s research deals with the development of methods to model two critical aspects of technological performance: 1) life cycle economics and 2) materials system sustainability – particularly resource efficiency and recyclability. To date such methods, have been developed for and applied to issues associated with every major life-cycle stage.