Standing room only
“The world’s energy problem and what we can do about it” was the theme of Nobel laureate Steven Chu’s packed plenary session. Chu has been working for the US department of energy for three years and has thrown his intellectual weight behind creating a more sustainable energy landscape (see - Lighting the way: toward a sustainable energy future).
“We really do need an Apollo program like effort,” he told the audience.
Nanotechnology got a mention on the subject of solar cells, but it was the need for better materials that took centre stage. Chu’s wishlist includes new metals for use with supercritical steam to help improve the efficiency of coal-fired power stations. Another request was for better insulating materials and better solid-state electronics for stepping up and stepping down power - two barriers to the adoption of a high-voltage DC grid for transporting electricity more efficiently.
On a much lighter note, Chu had an energy problem of his own when his laptop battery ran low during the presentation. Fortunately, a mains lead was found so that the show could go on.
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