Fraunhofer-Delaware Technology Summit addresses solutions for sustainability

(Nanowerk News) Portable pergolas with solar panel roofs. Drought-tolerant corn. High-oleic soybeans that eliminate the need for health-harming hydrogenation. Cars that feed electricity back to the grid. Cellulosic ethanol as a non-food source of liquid fuel.
Solving global problems in energy and the life sciences will require innovations like these and others not yet conceived in order to feed a growing world population, keep that population healthy, and meet its mounting energy requirements in sustainable ways.
On Tuesday, March 5, academic scientists and engineers came together with CEOs and entrepreneurs at the inaugural Fraunhofer–Delaware Technology Summit to discuss energy and life sciences challenges in a rapidly changing global environment. The event was held at the University of Delaware’s Clayton Hall Conference Center.
An innovative electric Mini Cooper received much attention during the Fraunhofer-Delaware Technology Summit
An innovative electric Mini Cooper received much attention during the Fraunhofer-Delaware Technology Summit.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said that partnerships like the one between Fraunhofer and UD are more important than ever.
“We have to learn from the world,” he said. “Countries like Korea and India are experiencing incredible development as a result of innovation and investment.”
In welcoming the 180 summit participants, UD President Patrick Harker pointed to the gray and green Mini Cooper parked outside the building.
“It’s one of a fleet of electric Minis that we have charging up across campus, nearly ready to be licensed for road use,” he said. “The innovative cars can store energy in their battery systems, and then give and take power on command from the grid. I hope you’ll take a few minutes during this morning’s break to look at the car up close and start imagining what it could mean for America’s energy future.”
The Fraunhofer organization takes its name from 19th-century researcher, inventor, and entrepreneur Joseph von Fraunhofer. According to Fraunhofer USA Chairman Hans-Jörg Bullinger, Fraunhofer had a research facility on one side of the street and a factory on the other so that his research could be applied immediately.
“Just as it takes money to generate knowledge,” he said, “it takes knowledge to generate money. We have to connect what we learn from fundamental research to what is needed in industry.”
Keynote presentations
Originally scheduled for Oct. 29, 2012, the summit was postponed when Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the region that day. The storm served as a sharp reminder of the need for strategies to supply customers with power when the grid is down for days and even weeks.
Lee Davis, senior vice president of NRG, one of UD’s partners on the electric vehicle project, addressed this issue in his keynote presentation, “From Fossil to Photons: An Energy Company’s Transformation.”
“Even though we had a number of sunny days after Sandy,” he said, “we had no way to deliver solar power directly to homes. Reliability is an issue that we have to address.”
NRG businesses span a wide range of technologies, from coal, oil and natural gas to nuclear and solar. “Our goal is to modernize fossil technologies and expand renewables,” said Davis, who also is president of NRG’s eastern region.
The company’s innovations include leased rooftop solar panel installations, a network of home and public charging stations for electric vehicles, and a customer rewards program for money spent on electricity through a network of partners and associations.
Douglas Muzyka, senior vice president and chief science and technology officer at DuPont, delivered the other keynote talk, “Life Sciences Addressing Global Challenges.”
Muzyka discussed the National Academies’ 2009 “New Biology” initiative, which promotes greater integration within biology and closer collaboration with physical, computational and earth scientists, mathematicians and engineers in order to find solutions to four key societal needs: sustainable food production, ecosystem restoration, optimized biofuel production, and improvement in human health.
“Integrated science is our approach to addressing global challenges in these areas,” Muzyka said. “Integrated science can unlock the potential of advanced biofuels and improve efficiency.”
He also pointed to breeding and biotechnology as paths to increasing crop yield and improving the nutritional quality of food.
“Twenty-first century innovation will depend on partnerships with global corporations, national labs, universities and entrepreneurs,” Muzyka said.
Student exchange program
A new Fraunhofer-UD graduate student exchange program was announced and highlighted during lunch. Six graduate students have been selected to participate during summer 2013: German students Carolin Hartwig, Elisabeth Bludau and Maria Stössel will work with UD faculty, and UD students Peter Worthington, Robert Kaspar and Erin Crowgey will spend the summer in Germany working with Fraunhofer researchers.
Source: University of Delaware
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