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Energy Sustainability: Fact or Fiction

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The dependence on oil and other fossil fuels for over 80% of our energy and the continued emission of carbon dioxide threatening a stable climate are captured in a single term: sustainability. Although we generally agree that sustainability is valuable, there is less agreement on how much sustainability is necessary or desirable. In this talk, three criteria describing increasingly strict features of sustainability will be presented and applied to evaluate the alternatives to oil and carbon dioxide emission, such as tapping unused energy flows in sunlight and wind, producing electricity without carbon emissions from clean coal and high efficiency nuclear power plants, and replacing oil with biofuel or electricity. The implementation of these more sustainable alternatives will require new cost effective nanoscale materials. The successful development of such materials will have a marked impact on the production of energy in a sustainable and environmentally benign fashion.

Speaking on this matter is George W. Crabtree, Ph.D., senior scientist and distinguished fellow in the Materials Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory and distinguished professor of Physics, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering at University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Crabtree has many credentials in science and energy. He has published more than 400 papers in leading scientific journals, has collected over 15,000 career citations, and has given over 100 invited talks at national and international scientific conferences. His research interests include materials science, sustainable energy, nanoscale superconductors and magnets, vortex matter in superconductors, and highly correlated electrons in metals. He has led workshops for the Department of Energy on hydrogen, solar energy, superconductivity, materials under extreme environments, basic science for energy technology, and computational materials and chemistry for economic competitiveness. He co-chaired the Undersecretary of Energy’s assessment of DOE’s Applied Energy Programs. He has testified before the U.S. Congress on the hydrogen economy and on meeting sustainable energy challenges.

Recorded Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at McCloska Auditorium, ITT.

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