The Administration's Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies (OAAT) lacks a clear idea of what it is doing. That is the tenor of a report by a committee of experts formed by the National Research Council. OAAT is supposed to coordinate and encourage R&D of energy-efficient automotive technologies. The report, however, says OAAT's plans for R&D do not mesh smoothly with those of two related programs--the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, and the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium. In some instances, the committee says, OAAT's plan simply states that a barrier will be overcome. "The committee was concerned that some of these statements relate to technology areas where necessary breakthroughs have not materialized despite significant R&D efforts over a period of many years," the report adds. It cites as examples batteries, gas turbines, and ceramic materials for gas turbines. The committee recommends that OAAT, in addition to defining technical goals more clearly, pay more attention to cost reductions.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.