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The ECS Lecture

The Future of Energy Conversion: A Perspective from the Chemical Industry

by William F. Banholzer

Monday, April 26, 2010 | Vancouver, BC, Canada

William F. BanholzerThe ideal energy future requires 100% sustainable sources of energy in adequate amounts to support a high standard of living for all. The key to reaching our sustainable energy goal is optimizing efficiency at every step of energy conversion and storage—whether cultivating food crops, propelling passenger vehicles, or synthesizing polymers for durable goods. Each application will require a different solution and there are major debates on the details.

Which new pathways and technologies will emerge to transform our energy situation? This question is addressed from the perspective of the chemical industry, which was built on oil, natural gas, and coal. These have served as the major raw material feedstocks and energy sources for driving reactions and separations. The industry is now shaping its transformation to sustainable energy and is developing new materials and solutions for energy supply and conversion.

This talk will consider the mass and energy balances of several key conversion pathways, as well as capital investment and land requirements. What can we expect as entitlement from optimizing biomass, fuel cells, wind power, or photovoltaics? At each stage of an energy conversion pathway, there are thermodynamic limits—for instance in the Carnot cycle of an engine or the inherent maximum efficiency of photosynthesis. These considerations determine where we can expect realistic progress toward sustainable energy in both the short and long term, and where we should place our investments.

William F. (Bill) Banholzer is Executive Vice-President for Ventures, New Business Development, and Licensing, and Chief Technology Officer for The Dow Chemical Company, where he has responsibility for driving innovation, value creation, and Dow’s research and development activities around the world.

Dr. Banholzer joined Dow in 2005, following a 22-year career with General Electric Company, beginning as a staff engineer in 1983 and ultimately serving as the Vice-President of global technology in GE’s Advanced Materials business. He earned numerous awards while at GE including Bronze, Silver, and Gold Patent Awards and election to the Whitney Gallery of Technical Achievers.

Dr. Banholzer serves as a presidential nominee to the MIT Corporation Visiting Committee for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and sits on the advisory board for chemistry and chemical engineering at UC Berkeley, and the NRC’s Board on Energy and Environmental Systems. In 2002, Banholzer was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

Dr. Banholzer earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Marquette University and master’s and doctorate degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois. He is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, holds 16 U.S. patents, and has over 80 publications, which have received more than 1800 citations.

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