Materials for Energy Storage and Conversion
Don Siegel, University of Michigan

The acquisition of renewable, low-carbon forms of energy is perhaps the most important challenge facing mankind. The primary fuels of today are derived from fossil sources that are finite in supply; moreover, the combustion of these fuels results in the emission of greenhouse gasses. While improvements in the efficiency of existing technologies can partially offset these effects, efficiency gains alone are insufficient to halt increases in carbon emissions: economic development in Asia coupled with global population growth will accelerate competition for, and consumption of these resources.

What can be done to secure a sustainable energy future? The answer may arrive in the form of new technologies for energy conversion and storage.

Solar cells, batteries, fuel cells, and thermoelectric generators are examples of devices that can convert or store energy without the emission of greenhouse gasses. While different in design and function, all of these systems share one important feature: their performance depends almost entirely upon the properties of their underlying materials. Consequently, the role these technologies will play in our future energy landscape will hinge upon advances in the chemistry and physics of materials. This overview talk will introduce the primary challenges associated with developing optimized materials for energy applications. New techniques for understanding complex phenomena will be illustrated, and opportunities for accelerated discovery via high-throughput computation will be described.

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