According to a report released in 2011 by the International Energy Agency, enough sunlight hits the earth every 90 minutes to fulfill the world’s energy needs for an entire year. Only a small portion of the global energy supply for electricity generation, heating, and transportation is derived from solar energy, an unfortunate situation since the Sun is a virtually inexhaustible source of energy. This is essentially a technological problem that deals with the cost and conversion efficiency of solar cells and the development of new materials for batteries, both of which are areas of intense research today for chemists, physicists, and other scientists and engineers.
Dozens of postage stamps, including the two illustrated in this note, have been issued worldwide to underscore the importance and value of renewable energy resources, including sunlight, wind, waves, biomass, and geothermal heat. It is interesting to note that even oil-rich countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia have released stamps dedicated to solar energy, perhaps tacitly acknowledging that the future energy needs of the planet will not be primarily satisfied with fossil fuels.
The Solar Army, a multilayered outreach project led by Professor Harry Gray, a beloved inorganic chemist at CalTech, aims to promote the understanding of key aspects of solar energy conversion and storage. Relatively inexpensive kits that can be used to screen metal oxides capable of water oxidation activity or to build dye-sensitized solar cells and explain photosynthetic processes have been widely demonstrated to the general public and distributed to secondary school and undergraduate students and their teachers. The hope is that training a new generation of scientists and engineers will help make solar energy utilization one of the cornerstones of a sustainable, efficient, and safe world for many generations to come.
Written by Daniel Rabinovich <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
©2016 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston