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TechHorizons: Pathways to a Sustainable World


TechHorizons 2008 Seeks a Clear Path to a More Sustainable World Through Technological Advances

Keynote speaker Richard Moorer, from the U.S. Department of Energy, sees solutions ahead that include increased battery capacity, nuclear energy and non-food biofuels

(May 4, 2008)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) —- While a four billion year supply of the most abundant energy in our solar system goes largely wasted, Californians still cling to $4-per-gallon fossil fuels, fuming in their fumes in traffic jams in an uncomfortable, unsustainable yet persistent lifestyle.

TechHorizons 2008 will present some of the most promising approaches to a better way of living in a two-day conference Tuesday and Wednesday, May 13-14, called “Engineering a Sustainable Future: New Energy, New Materials, New Transportation” at the University of California, Riverside.

Faculty researchers at the Bourns College of Engineering are opening windows to a future where solar power will be a major contributor to our energy needs. They are already perfecting the world’s most efficient solar cells and solar “paint” that is pushing the envelope of efficiency for large scale solar collection.

Work to develop new energy sources, improve our use of energy and reduce it’s impact on the environment is a significant percentage of the research now underway in Bourns labs. It is in university labs where the answers to our sustainable energy challenges are likely to come, according to TechHorizons keynote speaker Richard Moorer, Associate Under Secretary for Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

One of the major energy and transportation policy players of the past three decades, Moorer sees no gloom or doom in the United States' ability and willingness to resolve its energy problems in more sustainable ways.

"I'm very optimistic," Moorer said. He is a key player in the planning and budgeting for all U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) energy research and development programs including energy efficiency and renewable energy, environmental management, fossil energy, nuclear energy, radioactive waste management, electrical deliverability, and energy reliability. "I have seen technology surprise us in all sorts of ways."

Joining UCR faculty researchers at TechHorizons will be colleagues from Tohoku University, in the first major collaboration by UCR with one of Japan’s leading research institutions. Based in Sendai City, Riverside’s sister city in Japan, Tohoku University will participate in each of the four major sessions over the two days. The four technical areas for the sessions will be Alternative Energy, Advanced Materials, Solar Energy, and Advanced Environmental Technology.

Also participating in the sessions will be government and industry representatives who will help keep the focus on the underlying purpose of the conference, successful technology transfer. The conference is intended for business leaders, educators, investors, and agency representatives interested in new technologies in these areas and their potential commercial applications.

According to Moorer, considering the complexity of benefits and costs, economic and political realities, and the considerable barriers yet to overcome, one could easily become discouraged. "Not all policy analysts I have spoken with share my view of the potential for technological advances to solve these problems," Moorer said. "I am amazed that they lived through all the changes we have seen in the last 30 years and not feel that there is more to come," the secretary said.

How will the world achieve a secure, economic, sustainable energy future? Surveying the current landscape of technological development, increasing demand and the need for sustainability, Moorer sees not one solution, but a portfolio of solutions on the horizon.

Our plentiful coal reserves make it imperative that we develop technologies to minimize the impacts of coal-fired power generation, he said.

Despite environmental and security concerns, nuclear power will very likely be an increasing part of our energy future because of its low carbon emissions profile, Moorer added.

Biofuels have great promise to be an important factor in our future energy picture, Moorer added. Cellulosic energy sources include switch grass, municipal solid waste, and and forestry and plant residues - any material that is not considered foodstuffs.

For Moorer, the wild card in a sustainable future is unforeseen breakthroughs in new advanced materials which could suddenly solve engineering problems in promising areas

A big breakthrough that Moorer hopes to see is a revolution in technology for electric energy storage. That would make intermittent renewable energy sources (like solar and wind) more practical on a large scale and would help provide low carbon sources of energy for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

“There are so many promising possibilities, but most importantly, I see bright young students coming out of our universities, providing the ideas, conducting the research and developing the technologies that will result in sustainable growth for this country and the world. Developing our intellectual capital is critical.”

TechHorizons 2008 is presented in cooperation with Riverside’s Inland Empire Tech Week, May 12-15. For more information on cost and to register, visit www.techhorizons.engr.ucr.edu.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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