Renewable energy research is not an engineering problem. It has to be tackled as a basic science problem. Catalysis and many new modes of reactivity await discovery.
Chemistry is the central science of energy because it involves light capture and conversion with materials and storage in bonds.
The problem is too important to let our scientific egos get in the way. There needs to be an honest broker (i.e., objective group of scientists) who can recommend an honest representation of the strategic investment for energy.
Following Nocera’s presentation, John Turner of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory said that the processes that Nocera discussed are missing something in the theory that would explain how to make the inorganic materials mimic what has been done with ruthenium and platinum. Turner thinks there are too many combinations and a better directed approach is needed. Turner also suggested that they get theorists involved in the process to help understand synthesis and characterization. Nocera agreed with Turner’s comment.
John Sheats of Rider University pointed out that along with the increasing need for energy, a population of nine billion people will need to be fed. He posed the question, “Can we use biomass for fuel and feed the world when we’re not currently feeding the world?” Nocera responded with a simple “Yes,” and mentioned that the food dilemma is why the problem of biomass conversion needs to move on to lignin and cellulose. Nocera stressed using other energy sources besides biomass. He explained that if the majority of the world’s energy needs were addressed by using biomass, then there would indeed be a problem.