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Transforming Combustion Research Through Cyberinfrastructure
built at a dramatic rate today in China (U.S. EIA, 2006) and their emissions are a worldwide concern. Petroleum-based liquid fuels have dominated transportation fuels since the late 1800s, but some estimates suggest that only about a 50- to 100-year supply is left (U.S. EIA, 2007b). The availability of these fossil fuels and their geographical distribution around the world have had profound effects on international politics and economics, as well as enormous impacts on lifestyles everywhere by affecting where and how people live and work. Wars have been fought over access to petroleum and other fossil fuel resources, and growing pressures for energy may again lead to serious international conflicts.1
Fossil fuels will not last forever, but it is likely that they will continue to be a primary source of energy worldwide for years to come. There is no alternative energy technology that can replace combustion now, either with respect to the costs of supply or to the total capacity to provide for the huge energy needs of modern society. As fossil fuels diminish, they are likely to be at least partially replaced by other combustion fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel fuels. Energy production technologies change slowly, over decades, because of the enormous investments involved. Time is short, as combustion CO2 emissions continue to grow explosively, potentially increasing the rate of global climate change that is taking place. All of this makes it essential to revolutionize the ways in which the combustion of these conventional fuels and that of new alternative fuels are achieved; incremental advances will not suffice. As new carbon-neutral fuels are developed, there will be a need to understand how they burn and impact combustion-based engineered systems. The Committee on Building Cyberinfrastructure for Combustion Research believes that a community-wide CI, as presented in Chapter 2, would fuel the transformation that will accelerate the progress in combustion research and development. This transformation will be accomplished through the effective exchange of information, data, and software tools among the various subdisciplines and organizations that form the combustion community, as well as through advances in predictive capabilities that leverage state-of-the-art computer simulations and computing power.
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES
An emerging “green revolution” in energy provides some optimism for the partial replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources in the coming years. Wind power and solar power are growing rapidly and may eventually become significant sources of energy, and hydroelectric
The role of the need for oil as a cause of war is widely documented. See, in particular, Heinberg (2003).