On Demand Interconversion of Electrical and Chemical Energy: The Key to a Renewable Energy Economy
Yogesh Surendranath, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are poised to transform the global energy economy. However, their inherent intermittency necessitates scalable and efficient methods for storage and recovery of renewable electricity. The magnitude of global energy demand – projected to be greater than 50 terawatts by 2050 – combined with the versatility and high energy density of chemical fuels, argues for the development of scalable devices for on-demand interconversion of electrical and chemical energy.
This interconversion can be achieved in supercapacitors, batteries, electrolyzers, and fuel cells by driving energy storing and releasing chemical reactions at two spatially separated electrodes through which electrical current flows. The efficiency, selectivity, durability, and cost of each of these devices is, therefore, dependent on the structure of the electrode across length scales that range from the molecular to the macroscopic.
This talk will outline the basic research challenges and new opportunities for engineering electrode structure across multiple length scales, with an emphasis on the requirements for efficient and selective generation of chemical fuels from water and carbon dioxide. Rapid progress in this area of energy science is essential for the timely integration of renewables into the global energy economy.