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Press release (dated 20 September 2006)
Chapter 9: Bolster Basic Science Contributions to Technology Development
In considering the roles for basic research and related organizational planning in advancing climate change technology development, CCTP characterizes opportunities for contributions as follows:
This chapter discusses the potential research contributions to climate-related technology development of each of the above categories. Section 9.1, "Strategic Research," describes the basic, problem-inspired science underway, planned or under consideration that explores key technical challenges associated with CCTP's five strategic goals, as discussed in Chapters 4 through 8. Section 9.2, "Fundamental Science," describes the basic research that provides the underlying scientific foundation of knowledge needed to enable breakthrough technology. Section 9.3, "Exploratory Research," addresses research of high-risk, novel, emergent, integrative or enabling concepts, and others, important to climate change technology development, but not elsewhere covered. Finally, acknowledging that clarifying and communicating research needs of the applied technology research and development programs can help inform and guide basic research plans and programs, Section 9.4, "Toward Enhanced Integration in R&D Planning Processes," describes a generalized approach to integrate better basic research with the applied research and development programs related to climate change technology development.
9.1 Strategic ResearchScientific research enables both current and new generations of technologies that are needed to address the problem of GHG emissions. The outcomes expected from scientific research are time-variant:
Much of the research needed to address the challenges of climate change technology development requires cross-cutting strategic research approaches. These are discussed in the sections that follow, organized by the five CCTP strategic goals (Chapters 4 through 8):
The section concludes with a description of cross-cutting strategic research areas that underpin the sixth CCTP goal: to strengthen the basic research foundations that enable climate technology advances.
Research Supporting Emissions Reductions from Energy End-Use and InfrastructureA broad array of research underpins emissions reductions from energy end-use and infrastructure, spanning the areas of transportation, buildings, industry, the electric grid, and infrastructure. The promising basic research directions for each of these areas are discussed below, with illustrative examples.
TransportationStrategic research is needed to address major sources of CO2 emissions from vehicles and other key transport modes. Research on reducing vehicle weight while maintaining strength and safety includes materials science that improves efficiency, economy, performance, environmental acceptability, and safety in transportation. Foci are ceramics and other durable high-temperature, wear-resistant materials and coatings; and strong and lightweight alloys, polymers, and composite materials for structural components. Joining, welding, and corrosion sciences will enable the application of new polymer composites and bimetallic alloys, which also require the development of low-energy techniques for materials processing.
The nanosciences can potentially contribute to many aspects of energy efficient vehicles, engines, and engine processes. Research can build on basic research in materials, chemistry, and computation to develop fundamentally new types of materials with specific, tailored properties, including innovative applications such as highly conductive nanofluids for lubrication and cooling.
Materials and membrane research for fuel cell stacks and advanced fuel cell concepts for vehicles will improve the efficiency of fuel cells along with their performance, durability, and cost. Nanostructured catalysts will reduce the need for noble metals and can be operated at lower temperatures while producing fewer side products.
Electrochemistry, materials, and catalyst research, including research at the nanoscale, may lead to innovations in onboard energy storage for electric hybrid and hydrogen-powered vehicles. For conventional and novel sources of power in mobile applications, energy conversion cycles can be made more efficient and thermoelectric materials can enable more beneficial use of waste heat.
Research in thermo- and electro-chemistry and materials for advanced sensors that are robust and inexpensive could improve vehicle fuel economy by predicting system failure and optimizing system parameters.
For both combustion and other transportation energy sources, research on the energetics of chemical reactions and the interactions of chemistry at interfaces may significantly improve or transform the efficiency of energy-producing reactions. The design and development of efficient, clean-burning designs can be accomplished more quickly and with a higher probability of success if combustion models are improved.
Research on intelligent transportation systems needs to include complex systems science for sustainable transportation as well as computational science and improved mathematical algorithms and models for improved traffic handling/management and for design and performance simulation.
Genomics, biochemistry, and other biological sciences will lead to more productive biomass feedstocks and more efficient conversion to biofuels. This strategic research is described in more detail in the following section on "Renewable Energy and Fuels."
BuildingsThree aspects of buildings that could significantly reduce CO2 emissions would benefit from strategic research: the building envelope, building equipment, and integrated building design.
In improving energy efficiency in the building envelope, materials science will have a broad range of impacts, from a next generation of smart building insulation with phase change materials to transparent films for energy-efficient adaptive windows to new classes of lightweight structural materials. Robotics, along with the joining and welding sciences, will support the fabrication and construction of high-efficiency envelopes.
Building equipment will become more energy efficient through research in plasma science for arc lighting and semiconductor alloys for solid-state lighting, as well as light-emitting polymers. More efficient heating and cooling systems will be possible because of combustion, materials, heat transfer, and engineering research, and fundamentally new approaches to heating and cooling will result from research into thermoacoustics and thermoelectrics. Breakthroughs in magnetism will enable more efficient motors.
Research in whole-building integration will draw on the basic science research in condensed matter physics that enables improvements in smart transistors for energy-saving sensors and electronic devices to optimize space conditioning, new and improved self-powered smart windows through research in constricted-plasma source thin film applications, electrochromics and dye-sensitized solar cells, as well as multilayer thin film materials and deposition processes to control the interior environment, and smart filters for water systems based on tailored pore sizes and pore chemistry.
IndustryStrategic research is needed to address current and anticipated sources of emissions of CO2 and other GHGs from energy conversions and process inefficiencies. Strategic research is also needed to facilitate improvements in energy efficiency and resource utilization.
Research on advanced materials with attributes such as the ability to operate in varied hostile environments, such as high temperatures and pressures and corrosive environments, can enable improved process efficiencies.
Advances in high-temperature materials research (Figure 9-3) will lead to increased energy efficiency in industrial processes; for instance, increased temperature will improve the efficiency of industrial boilers (super-critical steam cycles) and Integrated Gas Combined Cycle (IGCC) systems for recycle of byproduct streams in the paper and pulp industry. Other areas of materials science include ion implantation, thin films, carbon-based nanomaterials, ceramics, alloys, composites, and quasicrystals; welding, processing, and joining; and foundations for nanomechanics and nano-to-micro assembly.
Solid-state physics and related sciences will support advanced, energy-efficient computer chip concepts and manufacturing.
Because of the very wide diversity of industrial applications, environments, processes, and products, strategic research in nearly all basic research disciplines is needed for new and advanced industrial sensors. For example, superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDS) that can measure extremely weak signals via tiny variations in a magnetic field will provide feedback to systems and reduce energy use as situations change.
Research on advanced separations, chemistry, and higher-selective catalysts can increase resource recovery and utilization of industrial byproduct or waste material. Advanced membranes and adsorption processes can lead to improved industrial process efficiencies and costs.
Research into the magneto-caloric effect will lead to new, energy-efficient forms of industrial refrigeration.
Advances in electronics research, tailored to power electronics applications, will enable more efficient motor and drive systems with improved ability to vary motor speed to enable higher efficiencies in loads such as fans, pumps, and compressors.
Research on key biotechnology platforms and designs for biorefineries will enable chemical products to be derived from biomass rather than fossil fuels as described in the section below on "Renewable Energy and Fuels."
Electric Grid and InfrastructureA balanced portfolio of strategic research addressing conductor technology, systems and controls, energy storage, and power electronics is needed to meet the need for secure and reliable power leading to reduced CO2 emissions from electric generation.
Other tailored materials research can lead to highly conductive high-strength nanowires; superlattices; high-strength, lightweight composites and corrosion-resistant materials; nanostructured materials for semiconductors; and metallic glasses for vastly improved transformers and sensor implementation.
Silicon carbides and thin-film diamond switching devices will improve performance and energy efficiency of power electronics and controls. Sensors and adaptive controls will enable optimization of the grid; development of responsive loads for peak shaving; and accommodation of distributed solar and wind supply on the grid.
Electrochemistry research, including electrolytes, electrode materials, thin films, and interfaces, will improve commercial batteries and other electric storage devices so important to integrating intermittent renewable resources into electric grid operations and for load leveling and optimized grid operations.
Computational science and computer/network science will improve real-time control of the utility transmission infrastructure and, thus, its energy efficiency.
Research Supporting Emissions Reductions from Energy SupplyStrategic research underpinning emissions reductions from energy supply targets low-emissions fossil-based power, hydrogen, renewable energy and fuels, nuclear fission, and fusion. Research in these areas includes the following:
Low-Emissions Fossil-Based PowerStrategic research is needed to achieve the principal fossil energy objective of a zero-emission, coal-based electricity generation plant that has the ability to co-produce low-cost hydrogen.
Since high temperatures result in lower GHG emissions, combustion, materials research, and condensed matter physics (crystalline structure) can contribute improved and new materials for high temperature, pressure, and corrosive environments. The result will be more efficient gasification processes for advanced coal plants and higher temperature turbine blades and heat exchangers to allow more efficient conversion of natural gas into electricity.
Computational sciences will advance simulation and design, especially for improved models and codes for fluid dynamics, turbulence, and heat transfer modeling.
Catalysis research employing nanostructured materials will find efficient pathways for the selective and efficient conversion of fossil fuels, including a catalyst for petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing and catalysis of carbon-hydrogen bonds. The 2002 Opportunities for Catalysis in the 21st Century workshop report describes research directions for better understanding of how to design catalyst structures to control catalytic activity and selectivity (BESAC 2002).
Geosciences research for higher recovery rates of fossil fuels with lower societal impact will be needed to provide feedstocks for higher efficiency, new low-emission power plants.
HydrogenThe development of energy-efficient and economically competitive technologies for H2 delivery, storage, and production will require a broad portfolio of strategic research.
Research will focus on understanding the atomic and molecular processes that occur at the interface of hydrogen with materials in order to develop new materials suitable for use in a hydrogen economy. New research is needed for tailored materials, membranes, and catalysts, leading to fuel cell assemblies that perform at much higher levels, at much lower cost, and with much longer lifetimes.
In the hydrogen production area, a key focus is on catalysts and better understanding mechanisms for hydrogen production. Biological enzyme catalysis, nanoassemblies and bio-inspired materials and processes are areas of basic research related to hydrogen production from biomass. Photoelectrochemisty and photocatalysis research may lead to breakthroughs in solar production of hydrogen. Also, thermodynamic modeling, novel materials research and membranes, and catalyst research may support nuclear hydrogen production.
Hydrogen storage is a major challenge. Basic science research related to storage includes the study of hydrogen storage-hydrides and tailored nanostructures and the development of high-density reversible membranes. For instance, research on complex metal and chemical hydrides may support on-board recharging of fuel cell vehicles.
In the fuel cells area, electrochemical energy conversion mechanisms and materials research are important. In addition, there are identified needs for higher temperature membranes and tailored nanostructures that basic science research could support. The 2004 Basic Research Needs for the Hydrogen Economy workshop report identifies fundamental research needs and opportunities in hydrogen production, storage, and use, with a focus on new, emerging, and scientifically challenging areas that have the potential to deliver significant impacts (BESAC 2004). An NSF (2004a) workshop on Future Directions for Hydrogen Energy Research & Education emphasized the promise that nanotechnology offers for hydrogen and fuel cell development, and the importance of developing a more interdisciplinary approach to future hydrogen research and development.
Renewable Energy and Fuels
Biochemistry, bioenergetics, genomics, and biomimetics research will lead to new forms of biofuels and capabilities for microbial conversion of feedstocks to fuels. This includes research on strategies for cellulose treatment, sugar transport, metabolism, regulation, and microbial systems designed to optimize the use of microbes that are known to break down different types of complex biomass to sugars and ferment those sugars to ethanol or other fuels. The 2006 workshop report, Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol: A Joint Research Agenda, outlines a detailed research plan for developing new technologies to transform cellulosic ethanol—a renewable, cleaner-burning, and carbon-neutral alternative to gasoline—into an economically viable transportation fuel (DOE-BER-EERE 2006). The research may lead to scientific breakthroughs in the design of a single microbe for making ethanol from cellulose. Nanoscale hybrid assemblies will enable the photo-induced generation of fuels and chemicals. Plant genomic research and gene function studies will make possible increased crop yields, disease resistance, drought resistance, improved nutrient-use efficiency, tissue chemistry that enhances biofuel production and carbon sequestration. The NSF workshop report on Catalysis for Biorenewables Conversion (2004) identifies the need for a reinvigoration and redirection of U.S. catalysis research for the purpose of developing fuels and chemicals production from biorenewables.
Basic research in photochemistry and photocatalysis will provide foundations for future, alternative processes for light-energy conversion, thin-film, and nanosciences research for photovoltaics. Bio-inspired systems offer the promise of engineered systems that mimic photosynthesis at higher efficiencies and rates.
Geosciences and hydrology research will support a broad range of siting issues related to hydro and geothermal power sources as well as assessing the availability of low-grade geothermal energy. Needed research includes mapping and monitoring geothermal reservoirs, predicting heat flows and reservoir dynamics, mapping the natural distribution of porosity and permeability in deep geologic media, and developing new methods to enhance or reduce permeability.
Research in materials and composites will lead to improved wind energy systems by enabling larger blades on wind turbine systems leading to lower unit costs for wind power and the economic use of wind turbines with low-speed wind resources. Research in electro-chemistry, superconductivity, and solid-state physics can aid advances in electric storage to help deal with the problem of intermittency that currently makes it difficult to integrate wind (and solar) energy into large-scale power dispatch systems. Research in materials chemistry, electro-chemistry and solid-state physics can lead to advances in development of power electronics, which will lead to power systems that can integrate with multi-level photovoltaics and inverters for solar and wind power systems and can convert DC power into 60-hz AC power.
Nuclear Fission EnergyThrough strategic research addressing issues of safety, sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and proliferation resistance, advanced nuclear fission-reactor systems can play a vital role in diversifying the Nation's energy supply and reducing GHG emissions.
Fundamental research in heat transfer and fluid flow will lead to improved efficiency and containment.
Basic research will meet the materials sciences challenges of Gen IV reactor environments, with emphasis on the search for radiation-tolerant, ultra-strong alloy and composite materials. Increased temperatures enabled by high-temperature materials allow higher thermal-to-electricity conversion efficiencies. Materials processing, welding, and joining sciences will also play a critical role in reducing failure rates and ensuring system integrity, and research into basic defect physics in materials, equilibrium and radiation-modified thermodynamics of alloys and ceramics will improve reactor design. Deformation and fracture studies and analyses of helium and hydrogen effects on materials will contribute to safety and reliability of advanced nuclear energy systems, as will atomistic and 3D dislocation dynamics studies.
Geophysical research and geological permeability engineering will support nuclear siting and waste disposal in geologic repositories, potentially employing remote sensing technologies similar to the approaches used in siting renewable energy facilities.
Chemistry and corrosion research will improve design, operation, and predictability for performance.
Fusion EnergyStrategic research on magnetic confinement approaches, materials science, plasma physics, and high energy density physics is needed to define and develop the most promising fusion concept.
Research in burning plasmas will validate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy. Moreover, research aimed at a fundamental understanding of plasma behavior will provide a reliable predictive capability for fusion systems. Studies will identify the most promising approaches and configurations for confining hot plasmas for practical fusion energy systems.
Research in materials tailored for a fusion energy environment leading to components and technologies that will be necessary to make fusion energy a reality.
A broad underpinning of computational sciences (Figure 9-4) will advance fusion research, including computational modeling to test the agreement between theory and experiment, and simulating experiments that cannot readily be investigated in the laboratory.
Research Supporting CO2 Capture and SequestrationResearch supporting carbon capture and sequestration underpins the development of technologies and strategies for CO2 capture and sequestration that are described in Chapter 6.
Carbon Capture and Storage in Geologic RepositoriesRealizing the possibilities for point source CO2 capture requires a research portfolio covering numerous technology areas, including post-combustion capture, oxy-fuel combustion, and pre-combustion decarbonization to reduce costs and energy penalties. Carbon storage in geologic repositories will require comprehensive understanding of the economic, health, safety, and environmental implications of long-term, large-scale geologic storage.
Membranes and chemistry research will enable separating CO2 in post-combustion stack gases, capturing it, and if needed, transforming it to another form of carbon that may be more useful, or more safely or permanently stored.
Geophysics, geochemistry, hydrology, and geological permeability engineering research of CO2 repositories in geological formations will increase understanding of how CO2 injected into such formations interacts with minerals and what the long-term fate of CO2 would be after injection. This research will probe the factors that determine the residence time of carbon sequestered in soils, and ways in which the quantity and residence time of carbon sequestered in soils can be increased. Such research provides the scientific foundation for credible calculation of sequestration by terrestrial ecosystems.
Modeling, simulation, and assessment of geological repositories research are necessary to identify sites that have been or could be selected for use in storing CO2 removed from industrial flue gases. Such research will help meet the need for a more definitive understanding of geologic storage potential.
Research is also needed on microbial processes that act to metabolize CO2 in geologic structures.
Terrestrial and Ocean SequestrationRealizing the potential to sequester carbon in terrestrial systems requires research on equipment, processes, management systems, and techniques that can enhance carbon stocks in soils, biomass, and wood products, while reducing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.
Basic biological and environmental research on terrestrial carbon sequestration could enhance the natural carbon cyc le—plants that store even more CO2. For example, this could involve development of technologies for enhancing the ability of trees to sequester carbon by modifying their root systems. Another possibility is genomic research on black cottonwood to characterize key biochemical functions related to photosynthesis, tree growth, and carbon storage. Environmental science research can analyze how efforts to increase terrestrial carbon sequestration might influence other environmental processes, such as nutrient cycling, the emissions of other GHGs, and albedo effects on climate at all scales.
Genomic research will identify traits that would enable plant species to grow and persist in environments that are of marginal quality and, hence, may not be useful for purposes other than capturing carbon in plant biomass. Genomic research on microalgae and photosynthetic bacteria may identify traits that enable the organisms to efficiently capture and fix CO2 separated from other industrial flue gases before it is released into the atmosphere. Research related to modifying plants and soil micro-organisms can provide the basis for capturing and retaining nitrogen and other essential plant nutrients and engineering the pathways for lipid synthesis to trap a larger fraction of photosynthate directly in hydrocarbon precursors.
Soil science research on the formation and transformation of soil organic matter will enable efficient application of technologies to enhance soil carbon sequestration, increase plant productivity, and reduce non-CO2 GHGs (e.g., nitrous oxide [N2O]) from soil.
Materials research may enhance carbon sequestration by substituting carbon-based products for steel, cement, and other commodities. Examples include carbon fiber from black liquor used in the manufacture of carbon composite lightweight materials and wood composites used in place of steel beams.
Research will explore ways of injecting CO2 into the deep ocean, how long the injected CO2 would remain isolated from the atmosphere, and what the potential ecological and chemical effects might be of injecting relatively pure streams of CO2 into the deep ocean. Research on methods of enhancing the abiotic uptake of CO2 by the ocean, and/or storing carbon in the ocean in forms other than acid-producing, easily degassible CO2 will also be considered.
A roadmap of various technology development approaches to carbon sequestration is described in Carbon Sequestration Research and Development (DOE-SC-FE 1999).
Research Supporting Emissions Reductions of Non-CO2 GHGsBasic and applied research is also supported by Federal agencies to develop ways of reducing emissions of non-CO2 GHGs. This includes research in the physical sciences, biological, and environmental sciences, and in computational sciences.
Work on materials and chemistry will lead to replacements for high global warming potential non-CO2 GHGs, such as sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and perfluorocarbons that are used in industrial processes. For example, research in materials chemistry, electro-chemistry, and solid-state physics can lead to advances in development of power electronics needed to minimize SF6 emissions from transformers by leak reduction, replacement of SF6 with other dielectric material, and development of new power transmission equipment that does not require SF6 insulation.
Research on thin films and membranes will isolate non-CO2 GHGs in industrial flue gases and other waste streams; combustion research will reduce emissions of N2O, ozone precursors, and soot; and catalysis research will reduce emissions of non-CO2 GHGs.
Basic research in the biological and environmental sciences, including microbial processes in the rumen of farm animals, animal metabolism, and animal grazing will enable reductions in methane emissions by livestock. Biological research will increase understanding of soil microbes to reduce methane emissions from livestock feedlots.
Basic biogeochemistry coupled with microbial ecology and soil science research may enable reductions in N2O emissions from soils.
Basic Research Supporting Enhanced Capabilities to Measure and Monitor GHGsThere is a continuing need to enhance capabilities to measure and monitor GHG emissions and concentrations across a range of scales and applications so that carbon management strategies can be designed and implemented consistent with economic and environmental goals. Basic research in this area includes the following:
Various kinds of measurement for GHGs in the atmosphere are necessary. Observed vertical profiles of GHG concentrations are a result of surface emissions and atmospheric physical and chemical processes. Remote sensing methods will determine spatially resolved vertical GHG profiles rather than column-averaged profiles. Combined airborne and surface-based scanning techniques for remote sensing will yield 3D, real-time mapping of atmospheric GHG concentrations. Specific technologies for airborne remote sensing will measure methane surface emissions at a 10-km spatial resolution. Technologies for the long-term monitoring of global black carbon (BC) sources and transports, along with other aerosols, will enable solutions tailored to emission sources and their regional impacts.
Research in materials chemistry, electro-chemistry and solid-state physics can lead to advances in development of high-fidelity sensors needed for making precise and accurate measurements of GHGs in remote and hostile environments (Figure 9-5). Innovative technologies for non-invasive measurement of soil carbon will provide rapid methods for monitoring the effectiveness of carbon management approaches applied to terrestrial ecosystems and agricultural practices. Microbial genomics research will seek to identify or develop eco-genomic sensors and sentinel organisms and communities for use in monitoring the effects of sequestering CO2 in terrestrial soils and in the ocean.
Models will simulate and predict GHG emissions based on dynamic combinations of human activity patterns, energy technologies and energy demand, and industrial activities. Environmental science and computational science can develop models that can simulate and predict carbon flows resulting from, for example, specific carbon management policy actions that provide a consistent picture of the effectiveness of efforts to reduce GHG emissions.
Cross-cutting Strategic Research Areas
This broad agenda of strategic research is inspired by the technical challenges of specific climate change technologies. If adequately funded, research will successfully convert many of today's emerging technologies into cost-competitive and attractive products and practices. However, to address the century-scale problem of climate change, scientific breakthroughs will be needed to broaden the range of today's options. The next section (9.2) describes the role of fundamental research, which enriches the underlying foundation of scientific knowledge necessary for problem-solving. Attention then turns to the novel approaches, advanced, integrative, and enabling concepts that fall under the category of "exploratory research" (Section 9.3).
9.2 Fundamental ScienceAt the outset of the 21st century, science is in the midst of an information revolution that is bringing on the rapid development of many new and promising discoveries across a variety of fields. In addition, the rapidly developing global infrastructure for computing, communications, and information is expected to accelerate scientific processes through computational modeling and simulation and to reduce the time and cost of bringing new discoveries to the marketplace. These potential discoveries and infrastructure developments portend a rapid advancing of capabilities to further the development of CCTP technologies. Fundamental research is needed in the following areas, which are representative of the opportunities afforded and serve as a reminder of the importance of sustained leadership and continued support of the pursuit of fundamental scientific knowledge.
Physical SciencesMany of the advances in lowering energy intensity stem from developments in the materials and chemical sciences, such as new magnetic materials; high strength, lightweight alloys and composites; novel electronic materials; and new catalysts, with a host of energy technology applications. Two remarkable explorations—observing and manipulating matter at the molecular scale, and understanding the behavior of large assemblies of interacting components—may accelerate the development of more efficient, affordable, and cleaner energy technologies. Nanoscale science research—the study of matter at the atomic scale—will enable structures, composed of just a few atoms and molecules, to be engineered into useful devices for desired characteristics such as super-lightweight and ultra-strong materials. The 2004 National Nanotechnology Initiative Workshop report describes many of these opportunities (DOE-BES-NSET 2005). Underpinning these basic research explorations are the powerful tools of science, including a suite of specialized nanoscience centers and the current generation synchrotron x-ray and neutron scattering sources, terascale computers, higher resolution electron microscopes, and other atomic probes. Fundamental research in the physical sciences includes research in material sciences, chemical sciences, and geosciences, all of which are described in more detail below.
Biological SciencesThe revolution in genomics research has the potential to provide entirely new ways of producing forms of energy, sequestering carbon, and generating materials that require less energy to produce. It includes research to investigate the underlying biological processes of plants and microorganisms, potentially leading to new processes and products for energy applications, thereby enabling the harnessing of natural processes for GHG mitigation. Research includes:
Environmental SciencesResearch in the environmental sciences is rapidly evolving with the development and application of new tools for measuring and monitoring environmental processes both in situ and remotely at scales never before possible. These new tools will provide data on the functioning of ecological systems, including the provision of goods and services such as sequestering carbon and how they are affected by environmental factors. Genomics research is and will continue to contribute to the advances in environmental sciences by providing understanding of the fundamental processes, structures, and mechanisms of complex living systems, including ecological systems. Examples of such fundamental research include the following:
Advanced Scientific Computation
The 2004 Advanced Computational Materials Science Workshop report describes how an increased effort in modeling and simulation could help bridge the gap between the data that is needed to support the implementation of advanced nuclear technologies and the data that can be obtained in available experimental facilities (DOE-SC-NEST 2004).
Fusion SciencesThe majority of fusion energy sciences research is aligned, generally, with the goal of providing the knowledge base for environmentally and economically attractive energy sources (summarized in Section 9.1.2); the remainder of the basic research is fundamental in nature. This research includes general plasma sciences, the study of ionized gases as the underpinning scientific discipline for fusion research, through university-based experimental research, theory, plasma astrophysics, and plasma processing and other applications. See also Section 5.5.
9.3 Exploratory ResearchTypically, applied R&D programs, as described in Chapters 4 through 8, focus on well-defined research projects and deployment activities designed to achieve results-oriented, specific metrics and meet deadlines. As described in Section 9.1, strategic research has a long-term, basic research focus, yet it is still oriented toward and inspired by the need to understand and contribute to solving problems associated with currently supported technology development thrusts. To meet the challenges associated with the CCTP goals, there is another need, that is, to augment existing applied R&D and strategic research programs with exploratory research. Such research would pursue novel, advanced or emergent, enabling and integrative concepts that do not fit well within the defined parameters of existing programs, and are not elsewhere covered.
Exploratory research would not duplicate, but complement, and potentially enrich, the existing R&D portfolio of climate-change-related strategic research and applied technology R&D. If the explored concepts proved meritorious, it would be expected that they would then become better positioned to be considered favorably in future plans among the existing Federal R&D programs, or form the basis for new R&D programs. This approach would stimulate innovative, novel, or cross-cutting technical approaches, not predisposed to one technology or another, and ensure that a full measure of the most promising technology options was explored.
CCTP plans to review agency experiences with exploratory research programs, including those of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and encourage the pursuit of exploratory approaches, as appropriate, within the Federal climate change technology portfolio. An exploratory research program would be expected to support research to explore novel "out-of-the-box" transformational technologies. Projects would be selected through widely advertised competitive solicitations. Awards would be made through merit-based grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts with both public and private entities, including businesses, Federal research and development centers, and institutes of higher education. Multi-agency coordination might be required for integrative ideas that span technical disciplines and economic sectors. Exploratory research conducted under such a program could add to scientific and engineering knowledge and contribute to U.S. technological leadership, while addressing long-term challenges in global warming.
Some important generic areas for exploratory research include novel, advanced, integrative, and enabling concepts, as elaborated upon below. Exploratory research also includes the development of decision-support tools to assess and better understand the role, impacts, and potential limits of technology in meeting CCTP goals.
Novel ConceptsNovel concepts, by definition, are "atypical" ideas. They often do not have funding support within the boundaries of traditional research and development organizations or other means to demonstrate their potential applications and value. They may build on scientific disciplines outside the usual disciplines in that field or attempt to apply previously unexplored methods, and may offer approaches that compete with the more traditional approaches already being pursued. These novel approaches may lead to better ways to reduce GHG emissions, reduce GHG concentrations, or otherwise address the effects of climate change.
Novel concepts might include, for example, innovative ways to produce or convert energy (e.g., high-altitude wind kites, direct energy conversion, immiscible liquid/liquid heat exchangers). Novel concepts might be used to mitigate the effects of global warming in the stratosphere (e.g., geo-engineered solar insulation) or sequester carbon (e.g., enhancement of the natural carbon cycle, or microbial fixation of carbon in geologic formations). Another approach might be to combine the biosciences with fields such as nanotechnology, chemistry, computers, medicine, and others (e.g., Bio-X) to create novel solutions for technology challenges. This could lead to innovative concepts such as the use of "enzyme machines" or even new materials (e.g., bio-nano hybrids) that could replace traditional technology altogether (Figure 9-8). Spaceborne measurements of the Earth system from the Lagrange points or other non-traditional orbits are another novel concept that could advance our understanding of regional and global GHG distributions.
Advanced ConceptsAdvanced concepts are high-risk, long-term ideas that are often too risky or unconventional for applied R&D programs to support, but are also often too purposeful or applied for basic research programs to support. These ideas draw upon conventional scientific disciplines and concepts but seek to take them beyond the realm of current capabilities. Over the long-term, the pursuit of advanced concepts in such fields as solar energy, biotechnology, ocean and tidal energy, and other fields could lead to dramatic changes in the way we produce and use energy.
For example, advanced concepts are emerging in the field of biotechnology and could be applied to the production of bioenergy as well as methods for sequestering carbon. Plant metabolic engineering could be used to improve the properties of plants for conversion to bioenergy, or to increase the storage of photosynthates as hydrocarbons that could be extracted as energy. Advances in plant genomics could be utilized to develop new crop species that maximize soil carbon storage in marginal lands, or to convert annual crops to perennial crops to facilitate carbon sequestration and provide more viable feedstocks for bioenergy. Further, the natural chemical reactivity of CO2 could be exploited to remove CO2 from the air or from waste streams, while forming stable, storable carbon compounds or useful products.
Advances in other areas might include solar fuels derived from carbon dioxide via artificial photosynthetic systems. Alternatively, solar-powered photo-catalyzed systems could be developed to produce liquid transportation fuels from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Energy could potentially be derived from wave and tidal power conversion systems using slow wave motion, or from tidal dams producing energy based on ebb tides.
Integrative ConceptsIntegrative concepts cut across traditional R&D program boundaries and combine systems, technologies, disciplines, and in some cases, sectors of the economy. For example, a net-zero GHG emission building could integrate energy for heating, cooling, and lighting with on-site power production for an electric vehicle. Developing such integrative concepts is an interdisciplinary, complex undertaking and would involve coordination across multiple agencies or across existing R&D program or mission areas. A more concerted effort might be needed to explore these concepts and manage multi-mission R&D. The combing of multiple concepts into integrated, more efficiently functioning systems could, however, have potentially large implications for climate change and should be encouraged.
Integrative concepts might include, for example, the combination of coal power and aquifer sequestration, or biochemical and thermochemical conversion of biomass. Also, an integrated process that converts biomass wastes into hydrogen fuel and a char-based fertilizer (sequestering carbon), while scrubbing CO2 and other flue gases, may have potential. Another example is engineered urban design, where land use is designed to reduce vehicle-mile requirements and allow co-location of activities with common needs for conserving energy, water, and other resources. The integration of transport, electricity, residential and commercial buildings, and industrial complexes within communities is a potential way to optimize the use of energy and reduce GHGs through co-location of energy sources and sinks. A related concept is the integration of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with wind, solar, zero-energy buildings, and utility peak-saving, which could dramatically reduce GHGs from vehicles and optimize use of intermittent energy sources such as solar and wind.
Energy used to support the water infrastructure is another area where integration of systems could be beneficial. Technologies to minimize energy requirements for water use could include, for example, buildings designed to reduce use and conveyance of water; gray-water re-use; and integration of water storage and treatment with intermittent renewable energy supplies.
Enabling ConceptsEnabling technologies contribute indirectly to the reduction of GHG emissions by facilitating the development, deployment, and use of other important technologies that reduce GHG emissions. Enabling technologies often represent the scientific and engineering breakthroughs needed to move next-generation concepts forward along the development cycle. In addition, enabling technologies often cut across multiple disciplines and can lead to the diffusion of new concepts in multiple areas.
Enabling technologies may span or be applicable to many aspects of energy end-use, supply, and GHG mitigation and sequestration, from power generation to instrumentation to separations, new materials, and storage. For example, enabling technology is needed to support a next-generation electricity grid and supply a potential nationwide fleet of hybrid electric vehicles. Such research might encompass the development of electrochemical, kinetic, thermal, or electromagnetic storage systems. Enabling technology (e.g., electron transmission via nanotubes) is also needed to make low-resistance power transmission possible without the use of cryogenics. Similarly, wireless transmission of electrical energy—or power beaming—would enable large solar-based energy conversion systems to be located far distances from population centers, such as in the Earth's deserts, in low-Earth orbit, outer space, or even on the moon, and still supply large quantities of energy to where it would be needed on Earth. Two technologies that might be pursued under this category of exploratory research suitable for power beaming involve microwave or laser energy.
Research to develop breakthrough processing technology will be needed to take advantage of emerging fields with great promise, such as nanotechnology. Exploratory research might include the integration of nanotechnology with engineering and other disciplines, joining technologies for new nanomaterials, and advanced processing technologies for nanomaterials and nano-bioengineering systems. Advances in these areas could enable the greater use of nanomaterials in applications that could lead to reduction and/or mitigation of GHG emissions.
Integrated Planning and Decision-Support ToolsDecision-support tools include analytical, assessment, software, modeling, or other quantitative methods for better understanding and assessing the role of technology in long-term approaches to achieving stabilization of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. While individual R&D programs sponsor the development of such tools, the tools developed are applicable mainly within each program's respective areas of responsibility or technologies. Broader analytical tools can provide intelligence for integrated planning and making research decisions that span disciplines, industries, and agencies.
An important evaluation tool is the analysis of the net environmental benefits of various climate change technologies (i.e., bringing science to the decision process). Understanding the response of the environment and long-term impacts can influence how the research portfolio will be structured to achieve the maximum benefits. Lifecycle analysis is another important assessment tool. Guidelines and standards are needed to develop lifecycle analysis that examines carbon flux, land use, energy use, economics and other factors related to the adoption of technologies that could potentially impact climate change. Along with lifecycle analysis, ecosystem models are needed to integrate improved genetics and metabolic processes for land use, CO2 fixation, and soil processes.
An integrated system architecture approach for GHG M&M across varying spatial and temporal scales would provide a framework for assessing and implementing GHG reduction strategies.
9.4 Toward Enhanced Integration in R&D Planning ProcessesEffective integration of fundamental science, strategic research, exploratory research, and applied technology research and development presents challenges and opportunities for any mission-oriented research campaign. These challenges and opportunities can be addressed by CCTP through enhanced and integrative R&D planning processes that emphasize communication, cooperation, and collaboration among the affected scientific and technical research communities. Appropriate means for regularly assessing the success of basic research in supporting the technology development programs also need to be established, including criteria, to ensure that basic research is a productive, indeed, enabling component of the larger CCTP R&D portfolio. 
A model integrated planning process would include the following:
The first few steps in the model process described above could be accomplished using workshops and other multi-party planning mechanisms. Technical workshops can bring together the applied and basic research communities and focus on research strategies and barriers impeding development in a particular technology area. The resulting report can form the basis for a framework of high priority research needs, a solicitation for proposals, and awards.
For instance, in recognition of the growing challenges in the area of energy and related environmental concerns, the Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences (DOE-BES) initiated a series of workshops in 2002 focusing on identification of the underlying basic research needs related to energy technologies. The first of these workshops, held in October 2002, undertook a broad assessment of basic research needs for energy technologies to ensure a reliable, economical, and environmentally sound energy supply for the future (BESAC 2003). More than 100 people from academia, industry, the national laboratories, and Federal agencies participated in this workshop.
More than a dozen such workshops have been held since 2002. Many apply directly to goals and technical challenges of CCTP. A number of these are cited throughout this chapter. More are scheduled for the near future, including basic research needs for superconductivity (2006); solid-state lighting (2006); advanced nuclear energy systems (2006); and energy storage (2007).
CCTP seeks to encourage continued and broadened application, across all agencies, of best practices in integrated research planning. In its periodic reviews of the adequacy of the CCTP R&D portfolio, CCTP identified a number of topical areas for consideration, in addition to those already planned, for future basic research needs assessments in support of CCTP technology development. These areas include: architecture and control systems for the electric grid; thermoelectrics by application (e.g., refrigeration, power generation); "bio-x", combining nanosciences and genomics; plant genetic engineering; measuring and monitoring of climate change mitigation, with an international focus; sensors, controls, and communication technologies; batteries–power & energy (basic chemistry); heat transfer–material insulation, cryogenics, thermal conducting coolants; power electronics–conversion; and ocean sequestration of carbon dioxide.
Based on the experiences of past and successful workshops held by the Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, and Biological and Environmental Research, the following principles are identified to help guide future planning:
Achieving the CCTP vision will likely require discoveries and innovations well beyond what today's science and technology can offer. Better integration of basic scientific research with applied technology development may be key to achievement of CCTP's other goals related to energy efficiency, energy supply, carbon capture and sequestration, M&M, and reducing emissions of non-CO2 gases. Basic science research is likely to provide the underlying knowledge foundation on which new technologies are built.
The CCTP framework aims to strengthen the basic research enterprise so that it will be better prepared to find solutions and create new opportunities. The CCTP approach includes strengthening basic research in national laboratories, academia, and other research organizations by focusing efforts on key areas needed to develop insights or breakthroughs relevant to climate-related technology R&D. Importantly, in the process, these basic research activities will enable training and developing of the next-generation of scientists who will be needed in the future to provide continuity of such research to find solutions and create new opportunities.
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Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC). 2003. Basic research needs to assure a secure energy future.
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Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee. 2002. Roadmap for biomass technologies in the United States.
DOE (See U.S. Department of Energy)
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Footnotes1 Criteria for "success" in basic research are well established, as are the multiple modes for evaluating related programs and projects. Such evaluations occur continuously in both pre-award and post-award settings.