The Center on Global Energy Policy and the Columbia University Chemical Engineering Department hosted a presentation by Mark Barteau, Director, University of Michigan Energy Institute.

In this era of relatively abundant fossil fuel resources, the challenge of limiting and reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations has become even greater. There is an increasing need to consider “all of the above” carbon strategies, in addition to our “all of the above energy” strategy. Engineers and scientists have important roles to play not only in creation of new technologies and in rigorous analysis of prospective solutions to energy and emissions challenges, but in communicating with the public and with policy makers.  

On the technology side, new and improved catalysts have a major role to play in the improvement or replacement of existing processes and feedstocks. However, a major challenge has been to design better catalysts from a molecular-level understanding of surface reaction mechanisms and site requirements. This presentation will consider examples of catalyst design utilizing new chemical insights from first principles studies, as well as the introduction of well-known catalytic functions into new environments. Regardless of the starting point, whether DFT calculations of the chemistry of individual sites or the assembly of new catalysts from molecular building blocks, issues of synthesis, stability and the working environment of the catalyst are common to all. The catalyst design strategies illustrated here will, it is hoped, be applicable to the development of new routes to fuels and chemicals from a feedstock base growing beyond fossil resources.