Energy problem and resources/environmental problems
We have to think on a global scale about how to deal with energy problems. Until now, consumption of large amounts of fossil fuels like petroleum and coal has led to depletion of fossil fuels, global warming due to CO2, and acid rain caused by sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
There are two possible countermeasures. The first is the development of clean and renewable energy that does not release CO2. Typical examples are hydroelectric power generation, solar cells, and wind power generation, as well as ethanol production from biomass that is carbon neutral, i.e., net CO2 does not change in terms of energy production and utilization. All of these are technologies that make effective use of inexhaustible solar energy. Another approach is to increase the energy conversion efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. Although improvement of conventional technology is certain, development methods such as incandescent lamp/fluorescent lamp → LED lighting in energy use, thermal power generation → hydrogen production and fuel cells in energy production are typical examples. In addition, by chemically clarifying combustion, it is possible to improve the efficiency of combustion engines to suppress the generation of SOx and NOx in exhaust gas.
Role of chemical system engineering
The foundation of these problem-solving methods is in chemistry. Unfortunately, chemistry alone cannot solve every problem. In other words, we know the great potential of solving energy problems.
For example, conversion of cereals into bioethanol has brought about a sharp rise in grain prices. Above all, alternative fuels are expensive to develop and manufacture, making them practically unusable in developing countries. In addition, the acquisition cost of rare metals used as catalysts to remove SOx and NOx from exhaust gases has also risen rapidly in recent years. In viewing the energy problem as part of a large system, it is necessary to develop a feasible system that can address problems in a realistic manner while constantly focusing on problem-solving in view of such social and economic problems.
The future that chemical system engineering opens
In the laboratory, we are working on the following themes.
- P2-Type Oxygen-Redox Cathode for Sodium-Ion Batteries (Yamada Lab.)