Washington, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Energy today held a hearing titled Innovation in Solar Fuels, Electricity Storage, and Advanced Materials. The hearing examined the status of America’s basic research portfolio, which provides the foundation for development of solar fuels, electricity storage, and quantum computing systems.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program is the largest program within the Office of Science that supports fundamental research to provide foundations for new energy technologies.
Energy Subcommittee Chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas): “DOE must prioritize basic research over grants for technology that is ready for commercial deployment. When the government steps in to push today’s technology in the energy market, it competes against private investors and uses limited resources to do so. But when the government supports basic research and development, everyone has the opportunity to access the fundamental knowledge that can lead to the development of future energy technologies.”
A solar fuel process, also known as artificial photosynthesis, requires further research to develop new materials and catalysts. With the right new materials, scientists could create a system that could consolidate solar power and energy storage into a cohesive process. This could make solar energy a reliable power source for chemical fuels production.
Electricity storage is one of the next frontiers in energy research and development. Innovation in batteries could help bring affordable renewable energy to the market without costly subsidies or mandates, which would enable utilities and others to store and deliver power produced elsewhere.
Advanced materials research allows researchers to develop materials with the exact qualities necessary for an application, like thickness, strength, or heat resistance. These new materials could provide the capability for quantum computing systems that will fundamentally change the way we move and process data.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Federal research and development can build the foundation for the next major scientific breakthrough. As we shape the future of the Department of Energy, our priority must be basic research that only the federal government has the resources and mission to pursue. This will enable the private sector, driven by the profit motive, to develop and move groundbreaking technology to the market across the energy spectrum, create jobs, and grow our economy.”
Witnesses, including Dr. Nate Lewis, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Daniel Scherson, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Collin Broholm, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Daniel Hallinan Jr., an assistant professor at Florida A&M University – Florida State University College of Engineering, testified on the importance of the basic research that will become the game-changers for future energy technology.
The research necessary to support most fundamental discoveries requires a long-term commitment, longer than the private sector typically can tolerate or justify in the market. This type of research is mostly carried out within the DOE labs or at research universities. The Office of Science also enables scientific discovery by providing one-of-a-kind research infrastructure, including its open-access user facilities, many of which are funded by BES and used by researchers at universities across the globe.
For more information about today’s hearing, including the webcast and witness testimony, visit the Committee’s website.