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A journey on the electrochemical road to sustainability

Abstract

As the nations of the world continue to develop, their industrialization and growing populations will require increasing amounts of energy. Yet, global energy consumption, even at present levels, has already given rise to major concerns over the security of future supplies, together with the attendant twin problems of environmental degradation and climate change. Accordingly, countries are examining a whole range of new policies and technology issues to make their energy futures ‘sustainable’, that is, to maintain economic growth and cultural values whilst providing energy security and environmental protection. A step in the right direction is to place electrochemical power sources—serviceable, efficient and clean technology—at the cutting edge of energy strategies, regardless of the relatively low price of such traditional fuels as coal, mineral oil and natural gas. Following a chronicle of the events that led up to the discovery of batteries and fuel cells, the paper discusses the application of these devices as important technology for shifting primary energy demand away from fossil fuels and towards renewable sources that are more abundant, less expensive and/or more environmentally benign. Finally, consideration is given to the idea of introducing hydrogen as the universal vector for conveying renewable forms of energy and also as the ultimate non-polluting fuel. Fuel cells are the key enabling technology for a hydrogen economy. As requested, the paper opens with a brief account of the circumstances by which the author joined others on a fascinating journey on the electrochemical road to sustainability.

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Correspondence to David A. J. Rand.

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Rand, D.A.J. A journey on the electrochemical road to sustainability. J Solid State Electrochem 15, 1579–1622 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10008-011-1410-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10008-011-1410-z

Keywords

  • Battery
  • Electricity
  • Electric vehicle
  • Electrochemistry
  • Fuel cell
  • Hydrogen
  • Renewable energy
  • Sustainability