The world is at the early stages of a few tectonic shifts in the global energy landscape. Over the last 250 years of industrial revolution, our global economy and prosperity grew exponentially, and our population grew from 700 million to over 7 billion people today. At the very roots of this historic success of humankind are now serious concerns about global warming and related climate change, because this industrial revolution is based largely on how we sourced, distributed and used fossil fuels. Furthermore, despite its remarkable success, about 3 billion people today have either no or highly unreliable access to modern energy. The world is thus facing daunting challenges as articulated in three big questions, namely: (a) How can we decarbonize our global energy system while continuing our economic growth?; (b) How can we best adapt to climate change?; (c) How can we enable affordable access and a secure supply of energy for every human being in this world? The good news is that we have witnessed dramatic cost reductions in how we produce carbon-free electricity and store them. The challenge now is how we manage the transformation of the electricity and transportation systems due to such positive disruptive economic drivers. This involves not only innovations in technology based on science and engineering, but also the need for innovations in markets, finance, and policy to enable these transformations.
Changes in the global energy landscape will take many decades, making this a fundamentally trans-generational issue. It highlights the need for an academic environment to nurture new ideas and pathways and provide students with the knowledge, mindset, and tools for making good decisions about the changes to come. This talk will underline some of the challenges and opportunities for research and education to address this global grand challenge.
Dr. Arun Majumdar is the Jay Precourt Professor at Stanford University, a faculty member of the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering (by courtesy) and co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, which integrates and coordinates research and education activities across all seven Schools and the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
Dr. Majumdar's research in the past has involved the science and engineering of nanoscale materials and devices, especially in the areas of energy conversion, transport and storage as well as biomolecular analysis. His current research focuses on using electrochemical reactions for thermal energy conversion, thermochemical water splitting reactions to produce carbon-free hydrogen, understanding the limits of heat transport in nanostructured materials and a new effort to re-engineer the electricity grid.
In October 2009, Dr. Majumdar was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to become the Founding Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), where he served till June 2012 and helped ARPA-E become a model of excellence for the government with bipartisan support from Congress and other stakeholders. Between March 2011 and June 2012, he also served as the Acting Under Secretary of Energy, enabling the portfolio that reported to him: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Reliability, Office of Nuclear Energy and the Office of Fossil Energy, as well as multiple cross-cutting efforts such as Sunshot, Grid Tech Team and others that he had initiated. Furthermore, he was a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy on a variety of matters related to management, personnel, budget, and policy.
After leaving Washington, DC and before joining Stanford, Dr. Majumdar was the Vice President for Energy at Google, where he created several energy technology initiatives, especially at the intersection of data, computing and electricity grid, and advised the company on its broader energy strategy.
Prior to joining the Department of Energy, Dr. Majumdar was the Almy & Agnes Maynard Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering at University of California–Berkeley and the Associate Laboratory Director for energy and environment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Dr. Majumdar is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as the Vice Chairman of the Advisory Board to US Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, and was also a Science Envoy for the US Department of State with focus on energy and technology innovation in the Baltics and Poland. He is a member of the Councils of the National Academy of Engineering, the Electric Power Research Institute, as well as the Science Board of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is a member of the International Advisory Panel for Energy of the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry and the US delegation for the US-India Track II dialogue on climate change and energy.
Dr. Majumdar received his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1985 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989.