This short book offers a window into research and development taking place at MIT, Stanford, and other U.S. universities that in the next decade or two might revolutionize the production and consumption of energy. New ideas are emerging in five main areas: shale gas, solar photovoltaics, electricity storage, electric cars, and LED lighting. For each of these topics, the book identifies technology that is already available but not widely used; technology that will soon emerge; and technology that is still on the horizon, in the form of promising ideas that need much further work before they can mature into useful applications. Among other fascinating topics, the book details new thinking about how to reduce the amount of water required by the process of hydraulic fracturing, which would make shale oil and gas more accessible in drier regions; recent efforts to greatly increase the storage capacity of lithium batteries so that they might someday power cars; new methods to make rechargeable batteries out of cheaper zinc; and cutting-edge ideas about how to improve LED lighting, which is more efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs and which, when combined with other technologies, would permit remote villages in Africa, India, and elsewhere to enjoy electric lighting without major new investments in infrastructure.
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