It is widely recognized that the fossil fuels, oil and natural gas, which currently provide almost 60% of the world's energy consumption, will be largely exhausted in a few decades.
It is widely recognized that the fossil fuels, oil and natural gas, which currently provide almost 60% of the world's energy consumption, will be largely exhausted in a few decades. At the same time world population will have increased by an estimated 30 to 40 percent by mid-century.
To avoid a catastrophic energy shortage by mid-century, these fuels must be replaced by ecologically acceptable and sustainable alternatives. Solar and wind power appear to me the most promising candidates. Although, at the present time they constitute only ~ 2 percent of the global energy consumption, their production has recently been rising by a spectacular 30 to 40% per year, or a factor 15 per decade and 225 in 20 years.
This arithmetic suggests that the entire deficit stemming from the impending exhaustion of oil and gas might be compensated in about 10 to 20 years by continuing aggressive commitment to solar and wind energy. Walter Kohn's lecture will examine this speculation. "I find that it provides useful guidelines for the second half of the century and beyond. At the same time, I find a very serious energy deficit during the one to two decades of transition from the present (oil-gas)-era to the (sol-wind)-era, which will require additional measures."
Kohn has made major contributions to the physics of semiconductors, superconductivity, surface physics and catalysis. He was the founding director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of California in Santa Barbara, which is one of the leading research centers in physics. He has received numerous awards including the Niels Bohr/Unesco Gold Medal, the United States National Medal of Science and the Richard Prange Prize. His role in creating Density Functional Theory, the most widely used theory of the electronic structure of matter, earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1998. In recent years, he was an active member of the U.S. government’s Basic Energy Science Advisory Committee and a consultant with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In 2005 he produced a documentary on solar power entitled “The Power of the Sun.” Kohn currently works on Macular Degeneration, renewable energies and global warming.
Originally from Austria, Walter Kahn studied mathematics and physics at the University of Toronto. He then completed his Ph.D. in nuclear physics and a posdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University followed by posdoctoral work at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen.