Center Scope and History
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SCOPE: A large quantity of usable energy is a prerequisite for a civilized, peaceful, and prosperous world.  The present energy infrastructure is based on several tenets each of which is unsustainable;

  •  nonrenewable fossil fuels provide a significant fraction of energy used
  •  fossil fuels produce greenhouse gases that cause environmental damage
  •  current energy sources are converted and used inefficiently
  •  total energy needs will greatly increase, particularly as developing nations evolve

In the next few decades, our society will have to significantly change each of these behaviors by: 

  •  finding new energy sources
  •  converting them in less harmful and more efficient ways
  •  and increasing the world energy budget significantly.


Scientific and engineering research can lead the way to solving all of these problems.  Better understanding of how electromagnetic fields and charges interact with matter will suggest new directions for harnessing these flows.  Breakthroughs in organizing matter will offer new opportunities to redirect and convert energy.  Juxtapositions of different materials will enable hybrid systems with superior properties.  A holistic approach is taken in which functional properties are developed in conjunction with durability, safety, and environmental compatibility.  Taken together, these research directions will enable the safe and sustainable energy future that is universally desired.


The University of Pennsylvania has been dedicated to the pursuit of “practical knowledge” since its founding, and this enables it to play a unique role in researching energy solutions.  Ben Franklin’s involvement in energy research, both in fundamental understanding (proving that lightning is electricity) and in practical innovation (proposing waking at dawn to save on candles) inspire our proposed linking of fundamental scientific and applied engineering research in this Center, as part of a campus-wide commitment to sustainability.