Science as Art Winners
National Academies Town Hall Meeting

Materials Needs for Energy Sustainability by 2050

Significant materials advances must be made over the coming decades

Written by Lori A. Wilson

Sabrina Sartori of the University of Oslo moderated a panel discussion on the materials needs for global energy sustainability by 2050. Topics included the fundamental materials research and development (R&D) that is necessary to achieve technical goals, geopolitical and international supply-chain implications of meeting necessary R&D challenges, and methods to achieve an energy-efficient, low-emissions future.

Panelists were Russell R. Chianelli of the University of Texas at El Paso, George Crabtree of the University of Illinois–Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, Cherry Murray of Harvard University, and Ellen D. Williams of the University of Maryland.

Crabtree said the question that affects every material is why does it degrade? “How can we prevent it? We need to look at materials as they develop and see the failure as they operate. There’s no reason why a battery electrode couldn’t last 100 years if we could disrupt the degradation process,” he said.


Panelists addressed the need for research on how to lower the cost of batteries and a way of storing energy. Williams said that 60% of energy is lost in transmission lines. One way of helping to fix this is by using DC transmission lines.

The ability to achieve an energy-efficient, low-emissions future will depend on achieving significant materials advances over the coming decades, the panelists agreed.

This event was co-organized by MRS Energy & Sustainability—A Review Journal and the MRS Focus on Sustainability Subcommittee, with funding from the US National Science Foundation.


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