"Twenty-Year Window of Opportunity"

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Top: UMERC director Eric Wachsman (far left) gives a tour of the new facilities. Middle: The ribbon-cutting. Left to right: Clark School dean Darryll Pines, director of ARPA-E Arun Majumdar, Wachsman, and UMD past president C.D. (Dan) Mote, Jr. Bottom: The plug-in hybrid electric Chevy Volt at one of the university's charging stations. Photos by Alan P. Santos.

Energy research and policy leaders from the government, academia and industry gathered for the grand opening of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center's (UMERC) new facilities on September 26, 2011. The facilities are located in a freshly-renovated wing of the Engineering Lab Building, and were funded in part by the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E).

Special guests included Arun Majumdar, director of ARPA-E and Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and Abigail Hopper, Energy Advisor to Governor Martin O'Malley. Representatives from GM and Toyota exhibited some of the most exciting advances in automotive technology: a plug-in hybrid electric Chevy Volt, a fuel-cell powered Chevy Equinox, and the new plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius.

After an open house highlighting the center's new labs and offices, visitors attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by UMERC director and William L. Crentz Centennial Chair in Energy Research Eric D. Wachsman (Departments of Materials Science & Engineering and Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering), who described the center as "the hub of energy activities for the campus."

University of Maryland past president C.D. (Dan) Mote, Jr. presented an overview of the center, which was conceived during his tenure. He highlighted some of its many research projects, environmental policy groups, entrepreneurial activities, and collaborations with industry.

In his remarks, Majumdar explained that while and even because universities have little authority and no financial stake in energy policy, centers like UMERC are "the ideal convening power" in bringing diverse groups of scientists, businesses, policy makers, and financial experts together to solve global energy problems.

Hopper described what she and Governor O'Malley see as the critical role UMERC will play in helping Maryland address its energy concerns. "UMERC is a vibrant example of an innovative institution that is fueling our economy, creating green jobs, and developing the technologies that will allow us to meet these big, bold goals that we have set for ourselves," she said.

UMD Vice President of Research Patrick O’Shea reminded the audience that UMD and UMERC's roles in education were just as important as their sponsored research. "We are in the business of educating explorers...not training tourists," he said, citing the university's Solar Decathlon team and its model home, Watershed, as a prime example of energy education that transcends the classroom.

A. James Clark School of Engineering dean Darryll Pines congratulated the UMERC faculty for its vision and expressed his hope that it would address the grand challenge of reducing society's dependence on oil on the global stage. "We need to work hard and think bigger," he said.

"UMERC is a vibrant example of an innovative institution that is fueling our economy, creating green jobs, and developing the technologies that will allow us to meet these big, bold goals that we have set for ourselves."

Abigail Hopper, Energy Advisor to Md. Governor Martin O'Malley.

Watch the ribbon-cutting ceremony online »

In his keynote address, "The Global Energy Challenge and Possible Solutions," Majumdar began with a history of ARPA-E and explained its role as the "creator of new learning curves" by supporting high-risk, high-return energy research. Majumdar told the audience he believes that in order to remain a world leader and prepare for the nation's growing energy needs, the U.S. has an approximately 20-year window of opportunity in which to produce game-changing policies and energy technologies that will make biofuels and sustainable energy resources into viable business ventures. He described some of the newest innovations that could make this possible, including electrofuels, lithium-air batteries, and all-electron batteries.

Watch Arun Majumdar's lecture online »

Founded in 2006, UMERC brings world-renowned researchers across many disciplines together to work on the development of sustainable energy technologies and policies. The center’s areas of focus include green jobs, energy entrepreneurship, building efficiency, stationary power generation and storage, alternative energy sources and fuels, and electric, hybrid and fuel cell-powered vehicles. Professor Greg Jackson (Department of Mechanical Engineering) serves as the center's associate director.

To learn more about UMERC's reseach and programs, visit www.energy.umd.edu.

Related media coverage:

Washington Post: "New UMd energy research center to focus on alternative energy generation and storage" »

Fox 5 (WTTG D.C.) news: "University of Maryland Opening Energy Research Center" »

ABC 7 (WJLA D.C.) news: "UMd. opening energy research center" »

Published September 27, 2011