Southwest Regional Energy Innovation Forum

August 18, 2016 - CHTM, compiled from OVPR Report and UNM Newsroom article by Vanessa Tan

Materials Technology for Clean Energy

Energy Forum Report cover

The University of New Mexico (UNM) hosted U.S. Secretary Of Energy Ernest Moniz and other leaders at a regional energy innovation forum on July 5, 2016. The forum’s purpose was to discuss the potential of materials technology innovations in developing solutions for clean, low carbon energy through collaboration between researchers, innovators and policy makers throughout the Southwest Region.

U.S. Senators from New Mexico Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, UNM President Robert Frank and 136 distinguished representatives of academia, national laboratories, industry, and other government and non-government organizations participated. Gabriel Lopéz, UNM Vice President for Research, was the Master of Ceremonies for the event.

Four panels, each representing one key clean energy technology, were convened as part of the one-day Forum.

Panel participants included leading scientists, engineers and innovators from UNM and other universities, Los Alamos (LANL) and Sandia (SNL) National Laboratories, National Science Foundation Energy Research Centers (ERCs), and private industries in the energy field.

Kevin Malloy, Professor Emeritus of Physics & Astronomy with UNM and a faculty member of the UNM Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM), moderated Panel II, “Materials for Improving Efficiency & Lowering Manufacturing Costs for Photovoltaics.”

Report submitted to US Department of Energy

The UNM Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) steered the submission of a formal report to the Department of Energy (DOE) summarizing the forum’s findings and the resources, capabilities and strengths at work in the Southwest Region. The report is designed to assist the DOE in formulating its plans to create new Regional Clean Energy Innovation Partnerships. These partnerships are a key component of the DOE’s support of the worldwide effort, Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution.

Noel Dawson, a UNM PhD Candidate who conducts research at CHTM (advised by Kevin Malloy), contributed to the report.

The report states: “UNM and SNL, in particular, have a long record of collaboration in commercialization and have the infrastructure and programmatic supports in place to foster further innovation.”

Also highlighted by the report: “Materials research in flow cells will inform energy storage and electrolysis; the semiconductor technology for creating and integrating photovoltaics may apply to storage and fuel cells; integrating nuclear energy with solar into distributed networks will create new materials challenges in reactors.”

Energy Secretary Moniz said, “Developing and using technologies to manipulate materials at the nano scale offers tremendous possibilities.”

From the report, it is clear that there is tremendous advantage in linking fundamental research, development and integration of new materials technologies to the urgent need for revolutionary new advances in clean energy sources and processes at the heart of the nation’s clean energy future. New materials developments have led to breakthroughs in many, if not all, recent clean energy technologies, such as less expensive fuel cells for automobiles, more efficient photovoltaic cells for solar panels and greater storage capacity for batteries.

Why the Southwest Region?

The report states:

“While it is on the front lines of economic and security concerns related to climate change, the Southwest is also at the forefront of innovation in the area of materials technologies for clean energy. Excellence in materials research for energy applications has long been a hallmark of DOE research resources in the Southwest Region, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).”

“These national assets have a long history of close collaboration with the Region’s major research universities including UNM, Arizona State University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Utah, each of which have major federally funded research centers focused on materials research.”

“The Southwest Region is a national leader in materials research and development for energy applications and is an established hub for energy materials innovation and commercialization."

"UNM, with its strong materials science research programs, sets an example of a new standard of innovation through collaboration with DOE laboratories, industrial partners, and other academic institutions.”

UNM Vice President for Research Gabriel López noted that “The Southwest Region is ideally poised to tackle the challenges associated with the urgent need for global clean energy solutions.”

This article is excerpted from:

• The Southwest Regional Energy Innovation Forum: Materials Technology for Clean Energy report (PDF)
• "Report to DOE outlines Southwest Regional strengths for Materials Technology for Clean Energy," UNM Newsroom article by Vanessa Tan