Energy and Sustainability Challenges

By Peter B. Littlewood

Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL

Published on

Abstract

Until about two centuries ago, before the industrial revolution was powered by fossil fuels, we lived on this planet supported by the energy resources of the sun. Within another century or so we may have to return to the sun as our principal source of energy. Can we do that, while supporting continued improvement in our standard of living? In a recent international poll[1] 71% thought their country "could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the Sun and wind". Unfortunately, this optimism is not justified by the state of current technologies, either in terms of their efficiency or their cost. However, a review of the fundamental principles suggests that there are modest grounds for optimism in the long term, as long a host of inventions can be brought to fruition.

This talk will take a physicist's perspective on some of the energy and sustainability challenges faced by the planet. I will stress the need for thinking using robust principles to guide the investigation. These include: to realise that global sum rules are much more reliable than addition of small scale phenomena; to understand thermodynamic and other equilibria in the large; to be aware as a scientist that economic, geographical, and social forces set boundaries; to understand that a "kiloWatt hour" is actually a unit of reserve currency.

To the extent that technology rather than conservation can play a role, efficient and low-cost materials technologies for energy capture, storage, transmission, and use will be key. Can we rely on iterative improvements in what we have now, or do we need breakthroughs? If we are to have such breakthroughs, what is possible within the constraints of fundamental physical laws? How much headroom is there for new technologies?

Bio

Peter B. Littlewood Peter B. Littlewood is the Director of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the nation’s largest science and engineering research centers, and a Professor of Physics in the James Franck Institute at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Littlewood came to Argonne in 2011 after being appointed Associate Laboratory Director of Argonne's Physical Sciences and Engineering directorate, which focuses on discovery science across a broad range of disciplines, and on creating and understanding new materials and chemistries that address the grand challenges in energy and the environment.

Before that, he spent 14 years at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, where he last served as the head of the Cavendish Laboratory and the Department of Physics. Dr. Littlewood started his career at Bell Laboratories, beginning in 1980 as a postdoctoral member of the technical staff; by 1992, he had worked his way up to head of Theoretical Physics Research.

Dr. Littlewood is an internationally respected scientist who holds six patents, has published more than 200 articles in scientific journals and has given more than 200 invited talks at international conferences, universities and laboratories. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of London, the Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society, and is an associate member of The World Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Littlewood holds a bachelor's degree in Natural Sciences (Physics) and a Ph.D. in Physics, both from the University of Cambridge.

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References

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Peter B. Littlewood (2015), "Energy and Sustainability Challenges," https://nanohub.org/resources/22203.

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Location

121 Burton Morgan, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

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Energy and Sustainability Challenges
  • Energy and Sustainability Challenges 1. Energy and Sustainability Chal… 0
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  • Can we run the planet in a sustainable fashion, while maintaining our standard of living, and allowing other nations to reach ours? 2. Can we run the planet in a sus… 42.142142142142141
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  • The public is optimistic ... 3. The public is optimistic ... 85.452118785452129
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  • Even banks are optimistic ... 4. Even banks are optimistic ... 113.54688021354689
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  • Efficient, sustainable transportation 5. Efficient, sustainable transpo… 144.87821154487821
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  • Efficient sustainable transportation ??? 6. Efficient sustainable transpor… 190.55722389055723
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  • What this lecture is about ... and what not 7. What this lecture is about ...… 218.41841841841844
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  • Do you believe in anthropogenic climate change? 8. Do you believe in anthropogeni… 309.40940940940942
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  • Fluctuation? Correlated ? Causal ? 9. Fluctuation? Correlated ? Caus… 316.38304971638308
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  • A good theory is always the best thing to have 10. A good theory is always the be… 445.14514514514514
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  • Arrhenius's model for the greenhouse effect (a) No atmosphere [ 11. Arrhenius's model for the gree… 473.973973973974
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  • Arrhenius's model for the greenhouse effect (b) Opaque atmosphere [ 12. Arrhenius's model for the gree… 543.20987654320993
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  • Arrhenius's model for the greenhouse effect (c) Partially transparent [ 13. Arrhenius's model for the gree… 609.77644310977644
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  • Greenhouse gases 14. Greenhouse gases 662.36236236236243
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  • Prediction Stability 15. Prediction Stability 747.54754754754754
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  • Outline 16. Outline 804.70470470470468
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  • Solar: the energy input 17. Solar: the energy input 906.006006006006
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  • Population densities 18. Population densities 1007.2072072072073
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  • Energy usage per m2 19. Energy usage per m2 1116.3830497163831
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  • Renewables must be deployed on country-sized scale 20. Renewables must be deployed on… 1243.9773106439773
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  • Concentrating Solar Resource 21. Concentrating Solar Resource 1367.0337003670338
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  • Solar photovoltaics in the United States 22. Solar photovoltaics in the Uni… 1387.7210543877211
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  • Technologies by volume 23. Technologies by volume 1434.3343343343345
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  • 2014 Solar PV Capacity in USA – 6.6 GW (peak) ~ 30 square kilometers 24. 2014 Solar PV Capacity in USA … 1497.4641307974641
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  • 3 TW @ 300 W/m2 (Full insolation in AZ) 10,000 km2 25. 3 TW @ 300 W/m2 (Full insolati… 1516.8835502168836
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  • 3 TW @ 80 W/m2 40,000 km2 State-of-the-art PV – 30% efficient 26. 3 TW @ 80 W/m2 40,000 km2 Stat… 1539.3727060393728
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  • 3 TW @ 30W/m2 100,000 km2 Typical solar PV installation: ~ 10% efficient 27. 3 TW @ 30W/m2 100,000 km2 Typi… 1555.221888555222
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  • 3 TW @ 5W/m2 600,000 km2 Typical installed PV under cloudy conditions 28. 3 TW @ 5W/m2 600,000 km2 Typic… 1566.7000333667002
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  • Lesson: Renewables need country-sized deployment 29. Lesson: Renewables need countr… 1581.7484150817484
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  • Wind energy 30. Wind energy 1593.5602268935602
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  • Hydro is a 31. Hydro is a "point source" 1698.8655321988656
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  • Challenges of geography, efficiency, and cost 32. Challenges of geography, effic… 1773.0063396730063
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  • Backing up grid renewables with storage 33. Backing up grid renewables wit… 1871.1044377711046
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  • Facebook Data Center 34. Facebook Data Center 1944.0440440440441
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  • Untitled: Slide 35 35. Untitled: Slide 35 2054.7547547547547
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  • The (energy) cost of making things 36. The (energy) cost of making th… 2083.3833833833833
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  • Materials are energy, and energy is money 37. Materials are energy, and ener… 2085.9192525859194
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  • Net US Generation from Non-Hydro Renewable Sources 38. Net US Generation from Non-Hyd… 2279.512846179513
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  • And now to technology ... 39. And now to technology ... 2318.2515849182519
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  • How much headroom for new technologies ? 40. How much headroom for new tech… 2359.0256923590259
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  • Transformative materials technologies for the electrified economy 41. Transformative materials techn… 2363.9973306639972
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  • Why electrical storage? 42. Why electrical storage? 2483.3833833833833
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  • The consequence of understanding is prediction: Moore's Law for Si vs. current strategy for Li-ion batteries 43. The consequence of understandi… 2757.4908241574908
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  • So we need a roadmap: Moore's Law for batteries? 44. So we need a roadmap: Moore's … 2884.7847847847847
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  • Battery manufacturing employs a tape casting process inherited from a deceased industry 45. Battery manufacturing employs … 2943.61027694361
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  • JCESR: Joint Center for Energy Storage Research 46. JCESR: Joint Center for Energy… 2986.1194527861194
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  • New research paradigm to explore vast space 47. New research paradigm to explo… 3050.0834167500834
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  • Pruning the search tree 48. Pruning the search tree 3164.4310977644313
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  • Overall goal: systematically design breakthrough multivalent cathodes using computing 49. Overall goal: systematically d… 3186.7200533867203
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  • Research target: turning energy into a currency 50. Research target: turning energ… 3200.5005005005005
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  • Technology will drive our science 51. Technology will drive our scie… 4209.3760427093766
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