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Topic Title: QUESTION: What policies and/or actions related to MSE should be priorities for President Obama?
Topic Summary: Make your opinion known on Materials Technology@TMS
Created On: 1/7/2009 2:26 PM

 1/7/2009 2:26 PM

Lynne Robinson

Posts: 701
Joined: 2/3/2007

In the weeks prior to his inauguration, President Barack Obama has stated that science and technology will play a pivotal role in addressing many of the issues that he and the country will be facing. In light of the new president’s focus on scientific solutions, Materials Technology @ TMS asked members of TMS technical committees to offer their suggestions on what he should be considering with regards to materials science and engineering. Their responses are featured in the January Spotlight articles posted in the Established Materials Technologies, Emerging Materials Technologies, Materials Education, and Materials and Society Communities.

In your opinion, what policies and/or actions related to materials science and engineering should be priorities for President Obama? Why should they take priority? What special considerations must President Obama take into account as he develops these policies?

 1/7/2009 2:34 PM

Lynne Robinson

Posts: 701
Joined: 2/3/2007

In January's Spotlight article for the Materials and Society Community, the following response from Bruce A. Pint, Past Chair, TMS Corrosion and Environmental Effects Committee, was excerpted. It is presented here in its entirety for your consideration and response:

One of the stated priorities of the new administration is energy sources that are clean, efficient, and make the country less reliant on foreign suppliers. Two areas that have been mentioned are clean coal and biofuels such as ethanol. The key corrosion issues, and associated materials solutions, with these technologies will not be identified until they are demonstrated in the field. Once identified, solutions can come from materials selection, laboratory studies, and modeling.

For clean coal, the government needs to push for a large-scale plant that can demonstrate the associated technologies and new materials involved. Construction and operation of such a plant is an efficient way of determining the critical materials needs, including any corrosion problems that need to be addressed.

For ethanol as a transportation fuel, corrosion issues will need to be addressed in production, distribution and consumption. Future sources of ethanol, such as forest waste products, will require different production processes. By demonstrating these processes on the pilot scale, materials solutions can be developed and the more efficient processes selected for commercialization. Many of these processes have unique environments where it is difficult to assess the corrosion mechanisms without extensive laboratory work. Once the fuel is produced, there is no comprehensive understanding of ethanol-based fuel corrosion behavior in the distribution system and engines where the fuel is burned. Current studies have generally addressed specific fuels and applications with no broad-based understanding. A more comprehensive corrosion science program is needed that will lead to better fuel standards and understanding of materials compatibility for proper materials selection.

By concentrating on the goals and identifying the materials problem areas, a more focused research effort can be developed allowing clean coal and ethanol to be demonstrated and widely adopted as quickly as possible.

The reason that these technologies should take priority is that they are critical to the current US energy portfolio. Coal represents >50% of current US electricity production and represents a major US natural resource as well as major source of CO2 and other emissions. Ethanol is already an important transportation fuel that needs to be increased in usage as part of a scientifically, and economically, sound energy policy to reduce imported oil. Other sources of energy will require decades to be as widely used as coal and ethanol are now and these new technologies may never reach their expected potential.

In my opinion, there are two broad issues to consider:

First, it is critical for the government to demonstrate clean coal technology, which will include a suite of new materials, and/or current materials not commonly used for this application. Utilities are not risk takers and have little in-house materials expertise—and there will be many uncertainties and technical problems associated with a clean coal plant.

A future clean coal plant will use up to one third of the power it produces for CO2 capture and storage and other emissions control. To get the same electricity output onto the grid for customer consumption, 50 percent more power plants will need to be built or the plant efficiency will need to be dramatically increased. To increase efficiency, the clean coal plant will need to operate at a higher temperature and pressure than current plants. The leap from 600° to 700°C will require new materials and likely result in unexpected materials problems that will require solutions. Once the technology is successfully demonstrated and materials problems like corrosion are addressed, utilities will be more willing to build clean coal plants.

The second issue is the need for a strategy to increase the consumption of ethanol by either making E85 (85 percent ethanol) more available for fuel-flexible vehicles already on the road or developing E20 rather than the commonly available E10. In addition to increasing demand, the government needs to help demonstrate ethanol production from more practical, non-food sources.


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