The old story of the blind men and the elephant – one describes the animal as a long hose, a second as a thick pillar, etc. – could be a metaphor for the scientific “multidisciplinary animal.” The field of energy research, for example, takes different forms, depending on one’s standpoint. Like the blind men, energy scientists might be able to explain one part of the field in great detail, but they may not even share a common language that would enable them to formulate the larger picture. Yet, they may be required to teach students the basic, “whole elephant” overview of energy research – knowledge these students will need if they are to become effective energy scientists.
A new textbook
is now poised to correct this deficiency. The idea for the book, edited by Prof. David Cahen,
who heads the Weizmann Institute’s Alternative Sustainable Energy Research Initiative, and Dr. David Ginley of the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in the US, arose during a 2009 sabbatical that Ginley spent at Weizmann. The scientists set themselves an ambitious goal: to cover the entire range of subjects with which a new researcher entering the field should be familiar, including current advances in clean and sustainable energy. They also wanted to place these topics in the wider context of geopolitics, economics, etc.
The book’s 49 chapters were written by leading experts in their fields, and each underwent extensive, multiple peer review. To create something more cohesive than the usual collection of articles, Cahen and Ginley asked the contributors to follow a set style, based on their holistic concept for the book. Many of the articles are thus original, and they expand on the available information. Cahen himself was impressed by the breadth of information they managed to include. At a certain point in the process, he says, he realized that his work desk and computer contained the most comprehensive collection of resources ever amassed on materials for the energy field.
The results of the two-year effort are a book that presents a wide view of the challenges and solutions in the fields of energy research and energy-based materials science. The text explains physical principles, chemistry and materials science, giving readers a basis to understand non-renewable energy sources, sustainable alternatives, future transportation issues, energy efficiency, energy storage and much more. The chapters also provide historical background, as well as resources for further reading and discussion questions.
Ultimately, solutions to the present environmental situation will depend on planners, decision makers and researchers having access to the fullest possible picture of that hugely complex creature we call “energy.” This textbook provides readers with an extensive array of facts, data and useful materials that will hopefully be used to build those solutions for the future.
Prof. David Cahen's research is supported by the Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Foundation Endowment Fund; the Monroe and Marjorie Burk Fund for Alternative Energy Studies; the Mary and Tom Beck Canadian Center for Alternative Energy Research, which he heads; the Gerhardt M.J. Schmidt Minerva Center on Supramolecular Architectures, which he heads; the Carolito Stiftung; the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust; the Charles and David Wolfson Charitable Trust; Adolfo Eric Labi, Italy; the estate of Theodore E. Rifkin; and the Irving and Varda Rabin Foundation of the Jewish Community Foundation. Prof. Cahen is the incumbent of the Rowland and Sylvia Schaefer Professorial Chair in Energy Research.