Purdue University Graduate School
2021.12.9 Xuda LinThesis 5.2.pdf (3.1 MB)

Modernizing Life Cycle Assessment Via Informatic Techniques

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posted on 2021-12-19, 21:09 authored by Xuda LinXuda Lin
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a widely recognized tool usedto evaluate environmental impacts of a product or process, based on environmental inventory database, and supply chain information. Although significant progress has been made on the development of LCA methodology and growth of LCA applications, there areissues to be addressed. As the number of LCA related publication increases rapidly it becomes challenging to gain a comprehensive understanding on the state-of-the-art: only a small number of review papers have been published and they tend to narrowly focus on a particular field or application while literature search is largely done manually. In addition, almost all LCA software tools are still using the legacy desktop application which have steep learning curve, unfriendly user interface, and complicated installation and maintenance requirements. Moreover, life cycle inventory databases, which serve as the data foundation of LCA, are designed and managed as a centralized structure with slow updates and low spatial and temporal resolution i.e., not supply chain specific. The development of informatics techniques opens up numerous opportunities to address these issues. This dissertation reports one of the first effort on applying informatics techniques i.e., automatic content analysis (ACA), web-based application, and blockchain to modernize LCA.

For the first time, ACA is applied on LCA related research to comprehend the big picture and get a better overview regarding the focus and evolution of LCA related research. The results show that while the field changed overtime, the most interested environmental category remained to be carbon emissions. However, the result also shows that whilecomputer science has evolved considerably, modern informatic techniques have only had a scattered impact on LCA. To overcome the limitation of current LCA software, an idea of developing a web-based application to benefit LCA implementation is proposed, especially for a certain type of industry with complex and hierarchical bills of materials. In cooperation with International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI), a web-based application is developed named Eco-impact Estimator (EiE). EiE is capable of performing quick and straightforward eco-impact estimation, especially for information and communication technology (ICT)products, with more than 50 users currently. To further optimize LCA, decentralized structure might be necessary. A new method is needed that can automatically back track supply chain along with material flow, with robust data availability and privacy. A blockchain-based LCA (BC-LCA) is proposed to solve this problem, with a framework built up, a detailed mechanism discussed, and a case study provided based on a practical industrial supply chain. Result shows that BC-LCA could improve data availability by providing increased data privacy and timeliness with the application of blockchain. Furthermore, the more nodes from a supply chain that join in BC-LCA, the better it could get.

With the help of informatic techniques, LCA can be improved significantly, including generating a more quantitative research overview, developing a more user-friendly LCA web-based application for ICT product manufacturing, and providing a LCA framework with more data availability, data privacy and data timeliness. Though it is still necessary to estimate the budget for such implication, which e is left as future work, trialing on interdisciplinary solutions may bring a new possibility to classic LCA.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Environmental and Ecological Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Fu Zhao

Additional Committee Member 2

John Sutherland

Additional Committee Member 3

Chad Jafvert

Additional Committee Member 4

Seokcheon Lee

Additional Committee Member 5

Hongyue Jin

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