Great strides have been made over the past century in our ability to harness energy sources, leading to profound transformations — both good and bad — in society. Looking at the energy system of today, it is clear that meeting the energy needs of the world now and in the years to come requires the concerted efforts of many different actors across a range of technologies and approaches. In this Feature, ten leading experts in energy research share their vision of what challenges their respective fields need to address in the coming decades. The issues being faced are diverse and multifaceted, from the search for better materials for fuels, to the design of energy policy and markets for the developing world. However, a common theme emerges: changes to adapt and improve our energy system are greatly needed. By improving our mutual understanding of the issues faced by each area of energy research, these changes can happen more smoothly, efficiently and rapidly.

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Author information


  1. Robert C. Armstrong is the Director at the MIT Energy Initiative and Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307, USA.

    • Robert C. Armstrong
  2. Catherine Wolfram is the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and Faculty Director at the Energy Institute at Haas, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720-1900, USA.

    • Catherine Wolfram
  3. Krijn P. de Jong is Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis in the Group of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis, Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

    • Krijn P. de Jong
  4. Robert Gross is the Policy Director at the Energy Futures Lab and Reader in Energy Policy and Technology, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK.

    • Robert Gross
  5. Nathan S. Lewis is the George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry at California Institute of Technology, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, 210 Noyes Laboratory, 127-72, 1200 East California Boulevard, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.

    • Nathan S. Lewis
  6. Brenda Boardman is Emeritus Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University Centre for the Environment, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK.

    • Brenda Boardman
  7. Arthur J. Ragauskas is a Professor in Biorefining at the BioEnergy Science Center, Joint Institute of Biological Sciences, Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831, USA and is at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, Center for Renewable Carbon, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-2200, USA.

    • Arthur J. Ragauskas
  8. Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez is Associate Director and Social Science Expert at Navigant Consulting, 1375 Walnut Street, Suite 200, Boulder, Colorado 80302, USA.

    • Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez
  9. George Crabtree is Director for the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), a Distinguished Fellow at Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 South Cass Avenue, Argonne, Illinois 60439-4845, USA, and Distinguished Professor of Physics, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, 845 West Taylor Street (MC 273), Chicago, Illinois 60607-7059, USA.

    • George Crabtree
  10. M. V. Ramana is with the Nuclear Futures Laboratory and the Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University, 221 Nassau Street, Floor 2, Princeton, New Jersey 08542, USA.

    • M. V. Ramana


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Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Robert C. Armstrong or Catherine Wolfram or Krijn P. de Jong or Robert Gross or Nathan S. Lewis or Brenda Boardman or Arthur J. Ragauskas or Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez or George Crabtree or M. V. Ramana.

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