Scaling dynamics and cost trends of new technologies

Dominique Thronicker presents the outcomes of her YSSP project which aimed to further the understanding of the historic change of technologies that can provide analogies for new environmental add-on technologies.

D. Thronicker

D. Thronicker


Research of the spatial and temporal diffusion of technologies and their performance trends offers important insights for patterns, drivers, and constraints of future technological change, for instance, that required to achieve climate stabilization. The research project aims to further the understanding of the historic change of such technologies which could present analogies for new environmental add-on technologies (e.g. carbon capture and storage, direct air capture).


Following the methodology of Wilson (2009), a historic scaling dynamics analysis was conducted for a range of chemical industry production processes (e.g., for ammonia, ethylene, benzene, chlorine, caustic soda). A 3-parameter logistic function was fitted to time-series data at industry and unit levels using IIASA's LSM2 software. The estimated parameters (saturation level, infliction point, time period over which y grows from 10% to 90% of the saturation level) allow for comparison of the rates and extent of scaling between the industry and unit levels of a technology as well as between different technologies. Linking production capacity to the energy intensity of production over time enables comparability of the extent and rates of scaling of chemical industry technologies with scaling patterns found, for example, for energy technologies.

Results and Conclusions

The analysis is highly dependent on data availability and quality. Data search and preparation turned out to be very time-consuming, so that at this point only preliminary results are available. (Originally, the project had envisaged a cost trend analysis of environmental add-on technologies for traditional air pollutants - like flue gas desulphurization units, in Germany and Japan.) A lack of publicly accessible cost data inhibited the continuation of this line of research.  Preliminary results suggest similar scaling dynamics of chemical industry technologies to the ones found for energy technologies. An analysis of the relation of cost dynamics and scaling dynamics is yet to be performed.


Wilson, C (2009): Meta-analysis of unit and industry level scaling dynamics in energy technologies and climate change mitigation scenarios, IIASA Interim Report IR-09-029.


Dominique Thronicker, of the University of Stirling's Division of Economics, is a German citizen, residing in the UK. She received funding from IIASA's German National Member Organization and worked in the Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program during the YSSP.

Please note these Proceedings have received limited or no review from supervisors and IIASA program directors, and the views and results expressed therein do not necessarily represent IIASA, its National Member Organizations, or other organizations supporting the work.

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Last edited: 19 August 2015


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