Sankey diagrams are a specific type of flow diagram, in which the width of the arrows is shown proportionally to the flow quantity.
Sankey diagrams are typically used to visualize energy or material or cost transfers between processes. They can also visualize the energy accounts or material flow accounts on a regional or national level.
Sankey diagrams put a visual emphasis on the major transfers or flows within a system. They are helpful in locating dominant contributions to an overall flow. Often, Sankey diagrams show conserved quantities within defined system boundaries.
Sankey diagrams are named after Irish Captain Matthew Henry Phineas Riall Sankey, who used this type of diagram in 1898 in a classic figure (see panel on right) showing the energy efficiency of a steam engine. While the first charts in black and white were merely used to display one type of flow (e.g. steam), using colors for different types of flows has added more degrees of freedom to Sankey diagrams.
One of the most famous Sankey diagrams is Charles Minard's Map of Napoleon's Russian Campaign of 1812. It is a flow map, overlaying a Sankey diagram onto a geographical map. It was created in 1869, so it actually predates Sankey's 'first' Sankey diagram of 1898.
The United States Energy Information Agency (EIA) produces numerous Sankey diagrams annually in the Annual Energy Report which illustrate the production and consumption of various forms of energy. The report for year 2012 include the following diagrams:
The International Energy Agency (IEA) created an interactive Sankey web application that details the flow of energy for the entire earth. Users can select specific countries, points of time back to 1973, and modify the arrangement of various flows within the Sankey diagram.
The US Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore Laboratory maintains a site of Sankey diagrams, including US energy flow and carbon flow.
Ben Schmidt, an Assistant Professor of History at Northeastern University, created a Sankey diagram relating majors in college to eventual careers.
Sankey Diagram Software Tools
The following software applications focus on drawing Sankey diagrams.
|Name||Creator||First public release date||Operating System||OS Version|
|Sankey for Android||Jürgen Wilhelm||2014||Android||3.2 or higher|
|Sankey Editor||Oliver Traun||2011||Windows||XP or higher|
|Sankey Diagram||squishLogic||2014||Apple iOS||7.0 or higher|
|e!Sankey||ifu - The Hamburg Institute for Environmental IT||2006||Microsoft Windows||Vista SP2 or higher|
|s.draw||Altenburger Consulting||2010||Microsoft Windows||3.x or higher|
|Sankey Diagram Maker||Dr. Hanny J Berchmans||2012||Microsoft Windows||7|
|Sankey Builder||Rob Potschka||2014||Web based|
|Google Charts||2014||Web based|
for Making Sankey Diagrams
Linux, Windows, MacOsX
and maybe other Python ports
More Energy input means less energy wasted
|This section requires expansion. (January 2007)|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sankey diagrams.|
- Scottish Executive - Energy in Scotland: Supply and Demand
- Irish Environmental Protection Agency - Material Flow Accounts (MFAs) – Demonstration for Ireland - 2001
- sankey-diagrams.com – Blog discussing the usage of Sankey diagrams
- Energy in a Sustainability Problem archived presentation from MIT ‐ Professional Education Course, June 2012, which uses both Sankey and Grassmann diagrams to present information
- IEA Energy Balance Flows – Containing International Energy Agency's data on over 150 countries and regions