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(ISSN 1933–9631) is a publication o Aldrich Chemical Co., Inc. Aldrich is a member o theSigma-Aldrich Group. © 2008 Sigma-Aldrich Co.
Vol. 3 No. 4
About Our Cover
I n t r o d u c t i o n
Welcome to the fourth issue of
for 2008,focused on ‘Alternative Energy’.Alternative energy may be broadly defined as energy generatedin a way that does not deplete natural resources or harm theenvironment. It is used as an “alternative” to fossil fuels and othernon-renewable energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas. Itis common knowledge that the use of fossil fuels contributes toglobal warming through the emission of carbon dioxide, and alsopollutes the air, water, and soil. In addition, fossil energy sourcesare not sustainable, i.e. while global energy demand continuesto grow, the world reserves of coal, oil and natural gas are beingdepleted. Currently, the world energy consumption has exceeded400 quadrillion BTUs (4.2 × 10
J) per year. The United Statesalone uses about one-quarter of the energy produced in the world, with an additional29% consumed by the European Union, Japan and S. Korea. Every day, the USA needs20 million barrels of oil, 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas, and 3 million tons of coal tocover its existing energy demand.One of the ways currently being explored to satisfy growing energy requirements isthe conversion of solar energy into electricity. This energy can be immediately used topower a broad variety of tools and devices. It can also be stored in chemical form inhydrogen rich chemical substances such as hydrides, or through the use of lithium ionbatteries. The former approach—conversion of solar energy into materials with highhydrogen content such as oil and natural gas—is the way in which fossil fuels formedin nature to begin with; of course that process took millions of years.This issue of
features four articles that are concerned with differentaspects of alternative energy. Researchers at Penn State University highlight conversionof solar energy and water into hydrogen, using a biologically inspired electrochemicalprocess. Hydrogen produced in such a manner could later be used in PEM fuel cellsto generate electricity. Material issues in PEM fuel cells are the subject of the articleby scientists from the US Department of Energy (US DOE) and the Argonne NationalLaboratory. Further ways to enable high efficiency solar power and lighting throughphotochemical generation of energy are discussed by researchers at Plextronics. Finally,scientists affiliated with the Vehicle Technologies Program of the US DOE addressmaterials challenges in advanced lithium ion battery research.Customary to
, each article in this issue is accompanied bySigma-Aldrich
products helpful in the corresponding type of alternative energyresearch. The facing page lists the materials categories that you will find in this issue.Please visit Aldrich Materials Science at
for productinformation. We invite you to send your comments and questions regarding
and materials of interest to
Viktor Balema, Ph.D.Materials ScienceSigma-Aldrich Corporation
The energy of our own star – the sun, is abundant, free and virtually unlimited. Its conversion intoelectricity, which can be used directly or stored in batteries or energy-rich substances such as hydrogen,offers a perfect way to resolve a vast majority of current and future energy issues. The system thatcombines biologically inspired
, a 1,6-hexanedithiol molecule shown on the cover, andeither gold or platinum nanoparticles, represents one of the possible ways to capture and convert solarenergy into hydrogen (see article on p. 78) for further use in fuel cells (see article on p. 85) to powerhomes, offices and a variety of electrical and electronic devices.