By 2050, the global energy demand is predicted to double or triple current levels. Access to new domestic energy resources that are clean and inexpensive is perhaps the country’s (and the world’s) most pressing need. Join Professors Brent Gunnoe of the Chemistry Department at UVA and Harry Gray of the California Institute of Technology for a discussion of approaches to increasing utilization of natural gas and solar energy, including scientific challenges and research efforts to address them.
Global proven natural gas reserves are double those of petroleum. Recent estimates of domestic natural gas reserves suggest ~650 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of recoverable shale gas, which is sufficient energy to remove dependence on imported petroleum for many years. Access to similar resources in remote locations, such as Alaska’s North Slope or off shore, would result in a substantial increase in useable domestic natural gas. What issues prevent scaled use of natural gas? Brent Gunnoe will discuss limitations and potential opportunities for this resource, including research at UVA and elsewhere on a low temperature process for conversion of natural gas to the liquid fuel methanol, which can be used as a transportation fuel, can be converted to gasoline or diesel fuel and can be used as a feedstock for the petrochemical industry.
The sun is a boundless source of clean energy, but it goes down every night. Harry Gray will discuss the challenges for scaled use of solar energy as well as strategies to overcome these obstacles. Along with others, Harry’s research group is trying to design devices that could be used on a global scale to store solar energy by splitting water into its elemental components, hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is a clean fuel that could be used directly or combined with carbon dioxide to produce methanol. One challenge in this research is identification of inexpensive and abundant materials for these devices. To aid in this research, hundreds of students have been recruited to join a Solar Army whose mission is the discovery of new materials for testing in solar water splitters.