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Randolph E. Kirchain

Principal Research Scientist, Materials Systems Laboratory

Dr. Kirchain received a Ph.D. from MIT. His research focuses on the environmental and economic implications of materials selection.

The choice of material potentially has sweeping implications on the realization of a product. Materials affect not only properties, but also 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 material selection decision requires understanding throughout the design and production systems.

To address this, Dr. Kirchain’s research deals with two broad topic areas: 1) the development of methods to model the cost of manufacture, using limited design information and 2) the sustainability of current and emerging materials systems. To these ends, Dr. Kirchain has focused on automotive manufacturing systems, including working on projects for all three major automobile manufacturers. These projects include extensive study of the functioning of the system for reclaiming materials from end-of-life vehicles. The specific focus of this work has been to understand the economic implications of changing vehicle composition and emerging policy strictures on the successful operation of this system.

Updated September 2010

News and announcements:

Kirchain and colleagues receive grant from Department of Energy for liquid metal battery project

“Energy Department Aid for Science on the Edge” - New York Times blog DealBook – October 26, 2009

“Mass. energy projects get $33.2m” - The Boston Globe – October 27, 2009

Paper presented at the 2004 Engineering Systems Symposium:

Co-Author of Monograph Chapter "Sustainability as an Organizing Design Principle for Large-Scale Engineering Systems"




Randolph E. Kirchain
77 Massachusetts Ave.
Building E38-432
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307

Phone: 617.253.4258
Email to: kirchain "at"



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