Frontiers in Energy Research: January 2013

January 2013

Mind over Matter and the Coming "Age of Control"

Samson Lai thumb

Ask any scientist what the first step to quality research is and the answer will most likely be "identify a problem or question." Ask any corporate leader what the first step is to a winning strategy and the answer will likely be "have a vision." These two ideas are embodied in the five grand challenges set forth by the Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Science. The challenges resulted from recurring themes that surfaced during the BES-organized workshops that began in 2001.

Overcoming the First Grand Challenge

Gyu Leem and Ralph L. House thumb

Redefining the nation's energy landscape demands overcoming nature's seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Each of the Department of Energy funded Energy Frontier Research Centers is working on one of at least five Grand Challenges to build the blueprints for truly disruptive technologies; the results are coming fast and are nothing short of remarkable. The first grand challenge engages 31 of the EFRCs to take experimental and theoretical approaches to design better materials, characterize the interactions between light and matter, develop digital memory by utilizing electron spin, create catalysts that overcome difficult fuel-producing reactions and capture and store the sun's energy as a fuel.

Materials by Design to Overcome the Second Grand Challenge

Emily Pentzer and Andriy Zakutayev thumb

Designing new materials for specific applications is the Holy Grail of materials science. Historically, serendipitous discoveries of important materials for energy applications have been made by trial and error or by accident. Now materials scientists focus on novel approaches that follow the model "given the property, find the material," which is the inverse of the traditional model "given the material, find the property." Development and application of these novel approaches is the essence of the second grand challenge.

Feature Stories

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    Seeing Superconductivity with the CES Director

    Lynn Trahey "One hundred years ago, people thought physics was understood, and they were proven wrong. Similarly today some of the key issues in physics that people may think are solved are not solved at all," said Director Séamus Davis.
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    Synergy Within and Beyond

    Jaroslaw Syzdek Oliver Monti's career and his research with the Center for Interface Science: Solar Electric Materials demonstrate the power of merging diverse ideas and diverse materials to do something more.

Research Highlights

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    Order Meets Disorder

    Designers of new energy technologies are often limited by today's materials. The materials cannot handle the extreme temperatures and pressures required by the technologies. Creating ultra-tough materials could benefit energy-relevant technologies.
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    With Nanoparticles, Distance Makes the Catalyst Last Longer

    A stumbling block to designing catalysts has been the lack of methods to characterize the size of the catalytic particles and their collective features. Using an instrument classically applied in biology...
Disclaimer: The opinions in this newsletter are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views or position of the Department of Energy.