Developing Transformative Energy Technologies: Role of Thermal Science?

What is “transformative energy technologies”?

  • The Energy Technologies that Can Change the State of the Art in a Disruptive Way.

  • Money is not a big problem. What we need is ideas that will aid us in achieving targets.

  • A Window of Opportunity for Transformative Technologies.

  • What are the Societal Needs as Research Driver in EU?

  • Transformative energy technologies related to heat transfer
    - Can heat transfer play an important and leading role? -

  • What are the Possible Areas of Exploitation and a Possible Role of Heat Transfer?

  • Example of a Transformative Energy Technology

  • REP Cool - Redox flow Electrochemistry for Power delivery and cooling.

  • A Transformative Concept of REP Cool.

  • The Challenge in REP Cool.

  • What is the Transdisciplinary in REP Cool?

  • The Energy Technologies that Can Change the State of the Art in a Disruptive Way.

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    First of all what is that? I call transformative energy technologies and I include in the definition conversion, storage, conservation, distribution, and so on and so forth. Technologies that allow us to do things differently, not business as usual, and can change the given state-of-the-art in a disruptive way. Those technologies from the viewpoint of the researcher bring with them a great excitement factor. There is new physics, although I don't like using this word very much but creative people would like to explore the new and unexplored rather than something that has really been explored or want to quantify it better. That's the good thing. At the same time people forget that technologies would by definition be very difficult to breakthrough and use, maybe because their efforts will not be successful, but even if they are successful, they're going to have to replace an existing establishment and that is not always easy. Therefore, if one sets out with big programs to define transformative energy technologies, one should have a holistic planning from the beginning, not only doing the research, but looking further into the realities within which this technology would have to be implemented in the event that this technology were to be developed successfully.

    A Window of Opportunity for Transformative Technologies.

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    Nevertheless, I see now we live in interesting times. Energy as such is one of the major challenges of humanity in this century. Governments, all over the world, dedicate large amount of money into energy and great plans are being set to do things better. If you look at the EU chart here for green house gas emissions, looking to project in the 2050, current policy targets a 60% reduction, more daring scenarios aim at an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. You see here the major contributors today and how plans are made for the elimination. The how to is what the scientists are going to have to answer and I see there is an opportunity for everybody – also, of course, for the heat transfer community to contribute here. So to the climate is good for innovation.

    What are the Societal Needs as Research Driver in EU?

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    Governments, you saw the content of this slide, but I'm showing you graphically now from my colleague, Professor Stefan, is good because the governments dedicate money. You need the money to do research. There is no doubt about it. You see here they are in amount of thousands of millions of Euros what has been planned in the new programs 2020 in the European Community, but, of course, it should be obvious that energy in addition to covering an important part of the planned resources, also has a very large role in other areas, like transport and food and so and so forth. It seems to me that money is not a big problem and what we are missing is effectively important ideas that will basically aid us in achieving targets being set.

    I want to go back to this blue part of the graph. I am not going to discuss it very much, but these are mechanisms for funding. Different instruments, governments do that too. They have different instruments for funding at different levels from small to big to bigger and so on and so forth and they all are meant to work synergistically to reach the desired targets.

    What are the Possible Areas of Exploitation and a Possible Role of Heat Transfer?

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    So I sat down and I wanted to give you three or four examples of technologies where could be of the transformative type, where heat transfer could play a role. Now, it's a very important thing I believe to realize that heat transfer cannot be important, is not important in everything. We like it very much, all of us, but it's not that the center of development necessarily all the time, but it is equally important to realize that where it is important, we must identify, we must take advantage of all the opportunities. I will give you an example of storage. Renewables are intermittent by a large; therefore, storage is a very important aspect of them. I see heat transfer and that's my personal opinion and I have not done any in-depth study or statistics on this as medium to low. Then we have the design and production of new fuels – chemical energy carriers that could be synthesized with various way, there I see heat transfer is as a very important part of many processes. There heat transfer could play a central role in development in these technologies.

    Then we will say we would go to solid-state devices. The two examples I have here sunlight and electricity, that means photovoltaic and thermoelectric. If you look into the pie charts of energy today, the part occupied by these technologies is small. If you look into research and excitement that's very high, but this is an area where heat transfer in addition to basic sciences, let's not forget that, play an important role - medium to high – I said it. Then, of course, there is the issue of the network and distribution of electrical energy and all the problems that go with that, not only electrical energy, but all kinds of energy consuming devices where I see the heat transfer relevance is low. Effectively, the heat transfer community I would not focus all of my activities there. There I would accept an axillary role.

    I think it would be a good idea to identify in the landscape that I described before technological domains ourselves. We can define those ourselves where heat transfer could play a leading role and claim that role that is not being done to the best of my knowledge. There are areas where heat transfer science could be at the forefront but currently they are perhaps there, but not in the leading role.

    REP Cool - Redox flow Electrochemistry for Power delivery and cooling.

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    Now I'd like to close also with an example of a transformative energy technology from my personal experience. It is an example and a technology that we've not developed yet, so it's pretty exciting. We're at the excitement phase at the beginning. I'll describe it to you. It is a technology for delivering power, electrical power to computers, but unlike everything that has been done today, the new idea is to do it with chemistry rather than doing it by somehow plugging it in. As you know in the era of supercomputers, they consume more than 1% of world's electricity, if you go to an extra flow, people don't to know how to power them. A reality of the computer business is that we need more and more electronics, Moore's law – I am not going to discuss one more time, you know it – but what I'd like to show you is the blue line that shows the number of pins per package which means, of course, which is not growing as fast. Therefore, there is not enough electronics to really deliver power into this very complex and dense packages that are go in to a direction of course of integration and a 3D integration and integrated cooling and so on and so forth.

    A Transformative Concept of REP Cool.

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    The idea was to do things bionically, do things differently and effectively use chemicals, drive chemical reactions, circulate the chemicals through the computer, have chemical reactions do cooling as well as produce electrons, electric current and electricity and do everything chemically. This is the premise of this very sort of this interesting project.

    The Challenge in REP Cool.

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    It's not very different than how effectively living organisms survive. In this graph here, I show that the goal of the project like this is to go toward the abilities of living devices. From what you see here on the horizontal axis here, I have computing density, operations per second pair size. L would be a typical length of the system and on the vertical axis I've the computing efficiency that is operations per Joule. The state-of-the-art of machines is down here, so very simple living devices you see up there and this is a log-log plot and you see simple organisms like, I believe I have a mouse and I have a whale and so on and so forth and a monkey and the distributing methods, of course, of this graph is the human brain is not very different than the brains of the of animals I just mentioned. All of these do better than the better machines that we have today by far, if you look in terms of computing density versus computing efficiency.

    What is the Transdisciplinary in REP Cool?

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    o by using similar approaches, the goal is to do this and there are keywords for power production that way. Of course, producing is one thing, you have to distribute it. There are a lot of challenges. Effectively, when you look into the business of flow cells or flow batteries, where a good order of magnitude below where we want to be. This is the gap that we have here, to start reaching the numbers I mentioned before and that is the challenge of this interdisciplinary project. I show the players here. Of course, there is a major computer manufacturer. This is the technology developed by the industry. You don't have to deal very much with those governmental complexities because if the industry decides to do this, they will implement this technology. Then we have colleagues from electro chemistry. We have colleagues, computational chemists here, of course, who help understand depth, what's happening there, and we have people from transfer phenomena.

    I have been working interdisciplinary for quite some time now. I heard what my colleague Peter Stephan said. My message is not as negative I would say. It's not perfect, but I've had very good experiences working with the basic sciences. Although it's not perfect, I think the climate is very good to proceed in that direction with these great opportunities that we have. Thank you very much.