Skip main navigation

The challenges

We look forward with Professor Andrew Holmes.
4
Andrew you talked about a wide range of materials that clearly would be utilised in organic electronics. What part do you think materials development will play in our energy future? A huge part and that could be broadened out beyond just light harvesting. I think it’s probably worth discussing material science in general because a lot of the technology for wind turbines for example depends on electro magnets and they depend on new materials size to give high efficient materials that can turn mechanical energy into electrical energy. So it will play a great part in other kinds of ligtr energy harvesting.
45
It will play a great part in alternative materials for light harvesting which is the main purpose I think of the question, that not just in organic materials or not in organic materials alone but organic electronic materials or organic electronic materials in combination with inorganic materials could provide new sources of thin film light harvesting devices which will be as good as or better than silicon. And then of course at the other end we all know that energy sources that depend on essentially the intermittency of sunlight or of wind need to be accompanied by highly efficient energy storage technologies.
90.8
And I think materials are going to play a huge part in energy storage such as batteries or capacitors and we know already that a lot of the lithium ion battery technology depends on really good plastics polymers to avoid the breakdown of the electrochemical material in the process of charging and discharging. So I think there’s a great future for materials in general and particularly as related to this particular program to organic electronic materials to have improved devices for light harvesting, wind harvesting and energy storage.

By now, you are aware that no matter what solutions are found, there will be challenges on the path to using any material-based initiative to survive on Earth.

In the video above, Prof. Andrew Holmes talks about the challenges that we face when wanting to introduce renewable or even sustainable energy solutions.

The difficulty is achieving the technology, infrastructure, and political support to make this transition.

But we are still faced with the fact that renewables only work when the input power is available, which is often out of our control – for example, solar cells only operate when the sun shines and wind turbines when the wind blows.

Batteries could be one solution, however they are still limited in their capabilities based on our needs. Liquid fuels were also shown to be a possible approach to store energy produced by renewable sources. We also saw a more ambitious goal of using superconductors to connect up renewable sources from around the world in a network where the variability will tend to balance out.

Conversation starter

What do you think is the right approach to dealing with the inherent problems of renewable energy?

This article is from the free online

How to Survive on Earth: Energy Materials for a Sustainable Future

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education