Earth Day: Electrochemistry and the Environment

Building a sustainable future

Earth Day

Image: NASA

Over 40 years ago, the modern environmental movement was born. Passion and concern drove a small group of twenty-somethings together in a rallying cry to create a more environment-conscious society, establishing what has become known as Earth Day.

The original Earth Day focused on the issues of pollution, but today’s modern Earth Day focuses the pressing global issue of climate change.

Global challenges

Currently, carbon dioxide levels in the air are at their highest in over 650,000 years, the global temperature has risen 1.4°F since 1880, and the sea level nearly 7” over the past 100 years.

While a few people and politicians may sill dismiss climate change, around 200 worldwide scientific organizations now formally hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action. Additionally, nearly 170 countries are preparing to sign the Paris Climate Agreement today, which will put global plans into motion in an effort to tackle the issue of rising temperatures.

The science of renewable energy

Here at ECS, we believe the path to stopping climate change and tackling these issues that are devastating the environment begins with science.

With population growth and industrialization, global energy needs continue to grow. Economic, political, and environmental issues are largely dictated by energy needs.

“We have to look after the plant for our children and our grandchildren,” said M. Stanley Whittingham, ECS member and key figure in the development of lithium-ion batteries. “We have to move the technology forward; not by using more energy, but by using less – and not messing up the environment. As electrochemists, we can do that.”

For many, the answer to a safer environment for future generations and a halt to climate change lies directly in renewable energy technologies. Electrochemistry and solid state science can provide those answers.

Electrochemistry and the environment

Electrochemistry and solid state science touch dozens of issues pertaining to sustainability and the environment – from solar cells and wind turbines for renewable energy harvesting, to batteries and fuel cells that provide energy storage options for when the sun goes down or when the wind stops blowing, and even to electric vehicles that can drastically cut the greenhouse gas emission rate from the transportation section (which accounts for over 20 percent of all emissions by sector).

(READ: “PV, EV, and Your Home at Less Than $1 a Gallon“)

“Electrochemistry nowadays is really the key,” said John A. Turner, ECS member and research fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “We have fuel cells, we have electrolyzers, and we have batteries. All of the things going on in transportation and storage, it all comes down to electrochemical energy converters.”

A renewable grid

In the United States, the Department of Energy’s recently released the Quadrennial Technology Review, which examines the country’s energy infrastructure and looks for a way to modernize and make it more secure.

(WATCH: Answers for Renewable Energy)

“We’re really looking for a cost effective energy system, security for energy resources, and – even more importantly now than it was a few years ago – environmental security,” said Franklin Orr, U.S. Under Secretary for Science and Energy.

Action on climate change

We believe that ECS’s Free the Science initiative could have serious implications for action on climate change. If we can make the scientific research results and latest finding more widely accessible, we may speed up the scientific discovery process, allowing for the development of cheaper, more efficient renewable energy technologies.

Perhaps a young scientist in the developing world will unlock the key to some perplexing scientific dilemma once we’ve made the latest findings more freely available in an ECS journal. Many of us believe we can accelerate the pace of innovating and help solve critical challenges by opening access to scientific research.

Learn more about Free the Science.


All content provided in the ECS blog is for informational purposes only. The opinions and interests expressed here do not necessarily represent ECS's positions or views. ECS makes no representation or warranties about this blog or the accuracy or reliability of the blog. In addition, a link to an outside blog or website does not mean that ECS endorses that blog or website or has responsibility for its content or use.

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