Materials, Energy and Climate: Requirements and Strategies for Sustainability in the 21st Century

Projections by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration and most other international studies show that worldwide electric power demand will increase from the current level of about 2 Terawatts (TW) to 5 TW by 2050 and likely to as much as 10 TW by 2100. A recent IEA 2006 Energy Technologies Perspectives report shows that for the next 30 to 50 years burning fossil fuels will continue to provide most of the world's electricity. In fact, in these baseline scenarios CO2 emissions will be almost two and a half times the current level by 2050. In addition, the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has placed a 90% likelihood that human sources of carbon dioxide emissions are significantly affecting the global climate. Clearly, this increasing demand is placing enormous pressure on natural resources, the global ecosystem, and international political stability. Alternative sources of energy are required in order to meet increased energy demand, stabilize the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and mitigate the concomitant climate change. In response, governments are urgently trying to develop new economical, sustainable, and environmentally friendly energy technologies.

Materials will undoubtedly play a central role in the developments of these advanced energy technologies. In this talk, I will survey some of the key research challenges associated with the development of new materials with properties tailored to meeting the energy challenge. Specifically, I will focus on the development of advanced materials, fuels and new technologies for novel fission and inertial confinement fusion applications that will require extension of current performance parameters to the extreme conditions of temperature, stress and radiation present in these environments. Accelerated development of these new materials will require vast improvements in computational capabilities and in the ability of multiscale simulations to couple closely to experiments and produce predictive insights into the performance of real, complex materials in these extreme environments.

Tomas Diaz De La Rubia, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


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