5 October 2012

Upcoming workshop to detail big science challenges

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TALLAHASSEE — Creating, storing, and conserving energy — a product for which there is limited supply and nearly unlimited demand — has been a topic of global conversation for decades. It's a problem that transcends scientific disciplines, that's bigger than government agencies, that's discussed in private homes and on the Senate floor. The only consensus surrounding this problem seems to be that when it comes to energy, there is no easy answer.

Albert MiglioriAlbert MiglioriHigh magnetic fields are a successful tool when applied to a growing range of energy- related research; to that end, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (or MagLab) has invited a group of researchers, industry, and agency representatives in the energy trenches to gather in Tallahassee, Florida on November 7-8 for its Energy@MagLab Workshop. The goal of the workshop is to illustrate the overlap between the MagLab's interdisciplinary facility and the most pressing energy challenges. These include better crude oil distillation, sound approaches to fracking, understanding catalysts, and creating more efficient fuel cells and energy storage devices. The workshop features speakers from organizations as diverse as the Department of Energy, Exxon Mobil, national laboratories, and prominent research universities.

The MagLab is an interdisciplinary user facility funded jointly by the National Science Foundation and the state of Florida. The lab possesses several world-unique tools applicable to carbon-based, non-renewable fuel (most often petroleum), and to renewable energy production and storage. In addition to a number of plenary talks, the workshop will feature poster sessions focusing on the high magnetic field research tools and techniques relevant to energy investigation.

"Working across disciplines — really an essential way to look a big problem in the eye — is a notoriously difficult logistical task for scientists. As individual researchers, we're often tied to a named discipline in a way that can limit the most intelligent investigation of a problem," noted Albert Migliori of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). "It's time we started having this conversation in a bigger room."

Migliori, Energy@MagLab's organizer, is the chair of the Energy Security Council at LANL and the co-chair of the MagLab's Science Council. The workshop is part of a larger effort to direct national resources to targeted areas of energy production, storage, waste disposal, and more. This approach recognizes that the energy landscape is changing with the times, the availability of fossil fuels, and the emergence of renewable energy generation as a permanent component of energy sources.