Video: Looking for Energy Innovation? Look to Materials Science

By Alexis C. Madrigal

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/03/video-looking-for-energy-innovation-look-to-materials-science/72685/