Episode 160: How are new materials important to our energy infrastructure?

Andrew Gellman, Lord Professor of Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, explains how material innovation will play a key role in the advancement of the energy industry.

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About the Energy Materials Network from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Accelerating Materials Development for a Clean Energy Future from the Department of Energy

Materials for Energy from the Argonne National Labaratory

Transcript

How are new materials important to our energy infrastructure?

HOST: Do you ever think how materials influence energy generation and use? If not, you should! On this week’s Energy Bite, Andy Gellman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

ANDY: The discovery and development of new materials has improved our standard of living continuously from Stone Age times, into the semiconductor age. New materials are important in energy technologies because they can reduce the amount of energy that we consume. For example, developing lightweight aluminum or carbon- based materials strong enough for use in cars and airplanes can significantly reduces energy consumption for transportation.

HOST: How do materials influence energy generation?

ANDY: The turbines used for coal and natural gas power plants must operate for years at temperatures approaching 1000 degrees centigrade and without corroding. Increasing turbine efficiency requires operating at even higher temperatures and, as a result, requires the development of new steels or entirely new alloy materials for these turbines. Solar photovoltaics that convert sunlight into electricity use materials like silicon that are semiconductors. Much of today’s energy research is developing new materials such as lithium for batteries or absorbent materials for hydrogen storage in order to enhance our ability to store energy. These types of materials will enable us to store solar and wind energy when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow.

HOST: Did you know how important new materials are in meeting our energy needs? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

 

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