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Arun Majumdar: Using Science to Innovate in Efficient Energy Utilization

This talk was presented on April 14, 2009 as part of the MITEI Seminar Series. Abstract: To address the challenges of energy security and climate change, it is becoming increasingly clear that “business as usual” traditional approaches to decarbonize the energy supply and to reduce energy demand are inadequate. We need to create an era of major innovations in energy conversion, storage and end-use technology that are not only efficient, but are also scalable and cost-effective. This, in combination with well-aligned policy, education and economics, can lead to profound societal changes. Such major innovations are likely to happen through the fundamental understanding and utilization of science. In this talk, I will discuss a few examples from my laboratory where we have used science to address basic needs in thermal energy conversion, transport, and utilization. Why is thermal energy important? About 90 percent of the US energy supply is used in heating and cooling, and about 60 percent of the energy in any power generation process is wasted as heat! Hence, if we are to address the needs of the supply and demands sides of energy, we must develop the ability to manipulate thermal energy. This talk will focus on fundamental barriers and limits in thermal energy processes that can only be overcome using science. These include the alloy and amorphous limits of thermal conductivity in solids, which have significant bearing on thermoelectric energy conversion; critical heat flux in phase transitions, which are widely used in power generation and refrigeration; and new approaches to solar-thermal energy that are fundamentally different from those developed in the past. About the Speaker Professor Arun Majumdar received a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) in 1985, and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989, for research conducted in the laboratory of Professor Chang-Lin Tien. After being on the faculty of Arizona State University (1989-92) and University of California, Santa Barbara (1992-96), he began his faculty appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He currently holds the Almy and Agnes Maynard Chair Professorship in the College of Engineering. In addition to his faculty appointment, he is the Associate Laboratory Director for Energy and Environment at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he is involved in creating new initiatives in the area of energy research. Professor Majumdar served as the Chair of the Berkeley Nanosciences and Nanoengineering Institute and was also a member of the Nanotechnology Technical Advisory Group to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). He served as the Council of Materials Science and Engineering at the Department of Energy and is a member of the Advisory Committee of the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Directorate. Professor Majumdar is a recipient of the Institute Silver Medal (IIT-B) (1985), NSF Young Investigator Award (1992-97), ASME Melville Medal (1992), the Best Paper award of the ASME Heat Transfer Division of ASME (1993), Gustus Larson Memorial Award of the ASME (2001), Distinguished Alumni Award from IIT-B (2002), and ASME Heat Transfer Memorial Award (2006). He is a fellow of ASME and AAAS, and was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering in 2005. MITEI thanks CERA for its ongoing sponsorship of the Seminar Series.

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MIT Energy Initiative

MIT Energy Initiative

Category: Environment/Energy | Updated over 2 years ago

April 30, 2009 16:50
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