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Materials Needs for Energy Sustainability by 2050

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Seeking 100% replacement of fossil fuels by sustainable alternatives

Written by Lori A. Wilson

A panel event was held April 4 at the 2018 MRS Spring Meeting to discuss fossil fuel replacement from laboratory concepts to demonstrated technology and the challenges to achieving 100% replacement of fossil fuels by sustainable alternatives. This is the third MRS panel of this nature to raise awareness of the link between energy, materials, and sustainability.

Fossil fuels have been a primary source for energy for more than 200 years. Although there are many benefits to society by harnessing fossil fuel for energy, its extensive costs have reached a critical point. Currently, 84% of our energy is derived from fossil fuels. By 2040, the aim is to get that number to 77%.

The moderator for the panel was Sydney Kaufman, chief of staff from the office of Senator Tom Begich, Alaska State Senate; she works to advance clean energy, climate resilience, and data-driven education policy on the state level. Panelists were Ying Shirley Meng, University of California, San Diego; Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Harvard University; and Martin Winter, MEET Battery Research Center, University of Münster.

This program included audience participation with real-time interactive polling and a Q&A session. Some of the discussion highlights included the topic of economic incentives, and do they drive deployment of wind and solar electricity, or are policy incentives required? What policies and level of investment are needed to bring exploration of laboratory concepts for fossil fuel replacement to technological demonstration? What materials development is necessary to better enable renewable technologies? What education and training of next-generation scientists and engineers is needed?

This event was co-organized by the MRS Energy & Sustainability journal and the MRS Focus on Sustainability Subcommittee. 

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