Energy at Oxford Chemistry

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Chemistry should no longer be seen as the problem, as it was for decades, but now as the indispensable solution to the global challenges we face. Sustainable development on this Earth does not mean less chemistry, but more chemistry.

- Dr. Wolfram Koch, Executive Director, German Chemical Society

Chemistry is the study of matter and how it interacts with various forms of energy.  Chemists seek new insights into both the fundamental nature of chemical energy and the transformation of energy from one form to another.  Insights developed through this understanding expand the possibilities for how energy can be generated, harvested, transmitted, and utilized.

Energy is all around us:  There is energy in the light from the sun and in the motions of the wind and the waves.  There is energy in the motion of electrons, in the vibrations of molecules, and in the chemical and nuclear bonds that hold all matter together.  Matter is itself a form of energy.

Our energy challenge is to harvest enough energy from our natural environment for all the work that we need to be done.  This is a complex problem with many possible solutions, with difficult questions to be answered at every step along the way:  What are the "best" sources of energy to start from?  How do we transport and store energy so that it is available where and when it is needed?  How can we reduce the amount of energy needed to perform various tasks?  How can we best deal with the byproducts of energy generation?

As the demand for energy continues to grow and limitations of existing approaches become ever more apparent, the need for new ideas and real solutions grows.  The magnitude of this challenge facing humankind means that it is more essential than ever that chemists apply their unique perspectives on energy and the chemical bond.  With its core-discipline depth at heart and multi-discipline breadth through major collaborations across the UK and around the world, Oxford Chemistry is ideally positioned to make significant advances toward solving the big challenges of sustainable energy and making a positive impact on society.

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