Video: Looking for Energy Innovation? Look to Materials Science

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energy_bug_1.pngIn the first week of the energy special report, we've been talking a lot about the role of battery technology in the rollout of electric vehicles. I wanted to take a look at the infrastructural research underlying battery innovation in materials science. Materials science, previously known as metallurgy to Civilization fans, has been a marker and enabler of technological progress since the Bronze Age, but it's in a period of very rapid change. It's long been a bench science, where you try something out, see how it works, and then iterate as quickly as the physical world will allow it. Obviously, lots of fine work has been done this way, but researchers like Gerbrand Ceder at MIT are starting to do more and more research in silico. They can model and predict the behavior of materials with increasing accuracy, so they're conducting experiments with newly available computing power instead of with real world materials. It's not only faster, but their science will continue to get faster because its hooked to the exponential increases in processing power that have turned ENIAC into the iPad.

In the video below, I lay out the case for materials science.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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