Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental Engineering and Earth Science

Committee Member

Karen High

Committee Member

Terry Walker

Committee Member

Sudeep Popat


In recent literature, prospective application of life cycle assessment (LCA) at low technology readiness levels (TRL) has gained immense interest for its potential to enable development of emerging technologies with improved environmental performances. However, limited data, uncertain functionality, scale-up issues and uncertainties make it very challenging for the standard LCA guidelines to evaluate emerging technologies and requires methodological advances in the current LCA framework. In this work, we describe major methodological challenges and analyzed key research efforts to resolve these issues with a focus on recent developments in five major areas: cross-study comparability, data availability and quality, scale-up issues, uncertainty and uncertainty communication, and assessment time. We develop a novel prospective LCA framework (LCA-ET) to evaluate emerging technologies at low technology readiness level. We demonstrate the application of this LCA-ET framework to evaluate two emerging technologies: (1) perovskite solar photovoltaic module and (2) anaerobic membrane bioreactor for domestic wastewater treatment. We also provide a number of recommendations for future research to support the evaluation of emerging technologies at low technology readiness level: (1) the development of a consistent framework and reporting methods for LCA of emerging technologies; (2) the integration of other tools with LCA, such as multicriteria decision analysis, risk analysis, techno-economic analysis; and (3) the development of a data repository for emerging materials, processes, and technologies.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.