ALLAN J. CONNOLLY
Schenectady, New York
JOHN M. VOHS
University of Pennsylvania
With growing concerns about dwindling reserves of fossil energy sources, especially oil, and the impact of using these reserves on the environment, energy efficiency, alternative energy resources, and a proposed hydrogen economy have all recently become important subjects of science and engineering research and public policy. Attaining the goal of using more sustainable and environmentally benign energy resources will clearly require the development of a variety of new technologies. The goal of this session is to provide an overview of policy and technological issues in the important fields of energy resources and energy conversion.
1. Energy for the Future
The first talk by John Reinker of GE Global Research, provides a starting point for a discussion of future sources of energy. Dr. Reinker presents an overview of the energy landscape—current and potential sources of energy and energy usage—and options for the future—the proposed hydrogen-based energy economy and renewable sources of energy.
2. Research and Development on Hydrogen Production and Storage
Sunita Satyapal of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) presents an overview of DOE’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, which was established to accelerate
research and development (R&D) on hydrogen and fuel cells. Dr. Sataypal describes key challenges in hydrogen production, especially from renewable sources (e.g., photobiological), and hydrogen storage. She also describes metal hydrides, chemical hydrides, and carbon-based materials for hydrogen storage and discusses the most promising options. Finally, she identifies the most significant issues that remain to be addressed.
3. Fuel Cells: Current Status and Future Challenges
Fuel cells, which convert chemical energy sources directly to electricity, could potentially provide more efficient energy conversion than we now have. Stuart Adler of the University of Washington focuses on the role of fuel cells in the broad spectrum of energy choices and the proposed hydrogen economy. After briefly reviewing the basics of polymer-electrolyte and solid-oxide fuel cells, Dr. Adler gives an overview of current R&D and describes the technological challenges that must be overcome before the widespread use of fuel cells will be feasible.
4. Advanced Photovoltaics
Photovoltaic (PV) cells can harvest the abundant supply of solar energy and generate electricity without releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Before PV cells can be used to provide a significant fraction of our energy needs, however, we must increase their efficiency and find low-cost production processes. Michael McGehee of Stanford University briefly compares the most promising materials approaches to making solar cells, including silicon; multijunction, bioinspired, and inorganic thin films; and organic materials. Dr. Adler then focuses on R&D on creating nanostructured organic or organic-inorganic hybrid solar cells at extremely low cost. He discusses the design of these cells and the physics of light absorption, exciton diffusion, electron transfer, and charge transport.