In 2003 the U.S. government launched the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative to provide practical and cost-effective fuel-cell vehicles.

Frontiers in Energy Generation

Solar cells are made from silicon wafers using the same techniques developed by chemical engineers for the semiconductor industry. Photo © BP p.l.c.

As nonrenewable fuel supplies dwindle and pollution becomes a greater challenge, the search is on for viable, renewable sources of energy. Some of the more promising areas of research and development include the use of hydrogen, solar and wind power, and even nuclear energy. Chemical engineers have a unique grounding in chemistry, physics, and math. By virtue of this diverse training they are particularly well suited to the task of discovering and exploiting the many opportunities available in this array of alternative energy sources.

Hydrogen fuel

Today use of hydrogen as a fuel has inherent limitations. It is costly to produce and difficult to store and distribute to households and gas stations. Chemical engineers are in the forefront of the race to develop viable processes to produce safe, economical sources of hydrogen and to deliver it where needed. Learn more >>

Solar and wind energy

The desire to harness the sun's energy is age old. However, it was not until 1939 that the first fully functioning solar-powered house was built at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Like solar energy, wind power is also environmentally friendly. In 2006 the total installed U.S. wind-based energy capacity could meet the annual electricity needs of 2.3 million homes. Learn more >>

Nuclear energy

Nuclear power plants create less air pollution than conventional power plants. But they do produce radioactive products that require long-term confinement storage. Advances spearheaded by chemical engineers have helped improve safety, increase power output, and maximize operating life. Learn more >>