The Tenuous Use of Exergy as a Measure of Resource Value or Waste Impact
Exergy is a thermodynamic concept that has been widely promoted for assessing and improving sustainability, notably in the characterization of resources and wastes. Despite having many notable benefits, exergy is often misused by authors who tend to apply it as an intrinsic characteristic of an object ( i.e. , as a static thermodynamic variable). Using both theoretical and empirical evidence the authors present five key limitations that must be overcome before exergy can be applied to characterize objects: (1) the incompatibility between exergy quality and resource quality ; (2) the inability of exergy to characterize non work-producing resources via the concentration exergy; (3) the constraints placed on the derivation of exergy; (4) problems with the exergy reference environment; and (5) the multiple perspectives applied to exergy analysis. Until the limitations are addressed, exergy should only be used for its original purpose as a decision making tool for engineering systems analysis.
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