Astronomy & Astrophysics Seminar: Sustainable Energy in the Era of Climate Change

Prof. Frank Shu, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan

15 January 2014, 14:00 
Shenkar Building, Haltzblat Hall 007 
Astronomy & Astrophysics Seminar


We take a first principles approach to the science of climate change and sustainable energy.  We examine why carbon dioxide and methane are worrisome greenhouse gases (GHG) despite being minor constituents of the Earth's atmosphere, why the increase of extreme climate-related events is exponentially sensitive to seemingly small increases in the mean temperature of the surface of the Earth, and why it is so hard to displace fossil fuels as the sources of primary energy generation by current clean-energy technologies. We argue that climate mitigation now requires not only emitting less GHG, but actually sources of negative carbon.  We then present two technologies researched by our group, supertorrefiers (STRs) and molten salt breeder reactors (MSBRs), that taken together can result in a systematic lowering of GHG levels in the Earth's atmosphere.  STRs have the potential of creating solid, liquid, and gaseous biofuels that are economically competitive with coal, petroleum, and natural gas. MSBRs can replace, over the long-term, the light water reactors in current usage with a walk-away safe, less expensive, more proliferation-resistant form of nuclear power, with acceptable solutions for the problems of high-level and low-level nuclear waste. Taken together, STRs and MSBRs allow a smooth and gradual transition away from fossil fuels while exploiting the storage, transportation, and power-generation infrastructures built up to support the fossil-fuel industry in a manner which can improve (if the biochar is buried instead of burned), rather than degrade, the environment with increased use


Seminar Organiser: Prof. Rennan Barkana

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