The frontiers of energy

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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Figure 1: Spot market prices (excluding taxes, as of 28 October 2015) in US dollars per tonne for fossil fuels ranging from coal to natural gas (data from www.eia.gov and www.bloomberg.com/energy), expressed through their respective hydrogen-to-carbon atomic ratio (H/C)14.
Figure 2: Fuel poverty figures and energy prices for the UK between 2003 and 2013.
Figure 3: Performance and cost of lithium-ion batteries since their commercialization in 1991.
Figure 4: Nuclear energy (EN) as a percentage of global electricy generation (Etot).

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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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Armstrong, R., Wolfram, C., de Jong, K. et al. The frontiers of energy. Nat Energy 1, 15020 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2015.20

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