Functional Materials for Sustainable Energy Technologies: Four Case Studies



The critical topic of energy and the environment has rarely had such a high profile, nor have the associated materials challenges been more exciting. The subject of functional materials for sustainable energy technologies is demanding and recognized as a top priority in providing many of the key underpinning technological solutions for a sustainable energy future. Energy generation, consumption, storage, and supply security will continue to be major drivers for this subject. There exists, in particular, an urgent need for new functional materials for next-generation energy conversion and storage systems. Many limitations on the performances and costs of these systems are mainly due to the materials′ intrinsic performance. We highlight four areas of activity where functional materials are already a significant element of world-wide research efforts. These four areas are transparent conducting oxides, solar energy materials for converting solar radiation into electricity and chemical fuels, materials for thermoelectric energy conversion, and hydrogen storage materials. We outline recent advances in the development of these classes of energy materials, major factors limiting their intrinsic functional performance, and potential ways to overcome these limitations.