Alois Bonifacio is associate professor of “chemical foundations of technology” at the University of Trieste, and part of the Teachers Board of the PhD School in Nanotechnology at the same University. His main research interests are about the use of optical spectroscopy for biomedical applications, but as a curious chemist he is also interested in the interconnections between chemistry and different aspects of society, such as economics and geopolitics.
Lecture – The Energy Transition and the Periodic Table: A chemist’s perspective on environmental, societal and geopolitical aspects
The Energy Transition is relying on the use of specific technologies. People often call them “clean” or “green” technologies: photovoltaics, wind turbines and electric cars, to name some. As with all products, also the products exploiting these technologies need materials with specific properties: strong magnets, efficient semiconductors or long-lasting batteries, for instance. In all these cases, few chemical elements make the difference in developing materials with characteristics as those needed by the Energy Transition. Which are these essential elements? Why are they important for these technologies? Where do we get them from? The answers to these “scientific” questions will inevitably bring us to touch other “non-scientific” aspects of these materials, such as their impact on the environment, on the people producing them and even on global politics. The Energy Transition is (luckily) on its way: chemistry can perhaps help us to better understand its course, and possibly to make it environmentally sustainable and socially fair.