A particularly important challenge of
21st Century is the development of clean and renewable energy supplies.
There are several candidate technologies, including wind, tidal,
geothermal, nuclear, solar, biomass and direct conversion of sunlight,
air and water to hydrocarbon fuels. Each of these alternatives has been
demonstrated at scales ranging from laboratory to prototype. However,
in order to have a significant impact on world energy supplies, they
must undergo scale-up by orders of magnitude. This demands systems
engineering at a level never before achieved. Thus, the underlying
purpose of this study is to examine the current state-of-the-art of
systems engineering and systems engineering education to determine what
research and pedagogy are needed to prepare the nation to meet this
accurate evaluation of the status of
systems engineering requires an assessment of current practices on a
worldwide basis. Although broadly based, this assessment will focus
particularly on the status of systems engineering in support of clean
and renewable energy sources that appear to have high potential to
replace nonrenewable fossil fuels. The assessment will be accomplished
through visits to academic and other institutions around the world
identified as having developed the most advanced capability for systems
engineering. These visits will identify the worldwide strengths and
gaps in systems engineering capabilities for clean and renewable energy
manufacturing and also the efforts being made to close those gaps,
particularly in academia. Finally, the study will identify actions that
the U.S. might employ to take the lead in the development of systems
engineering for energy manufacturing, and to take or maintain the lead
in systems engineering education. This will better position the U.S. to
both train an engineering workforce and to provide the underlying
academic research needed to lead the nation and the world into an era
of secure and abundant energy supplies.
This on-site peer review process has been developed by the World Technology Evaluation Center, Inc. (WTEC). Since 1989, WTEC has provided such assessment studies in over 60 technology fields under grants from NSF. Other agencies, including NIH, NASA, NIST, DOE and DOD, have co-sponsored these studies. Recent projects related to this study include Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020 (2010), International Assessment of R&D in Simulation-Based Engineering and Science (2009), and International Assessment of R&D in Catalysis by Nanostructured Materials (2009).
This study would support several Areas of Emphasis for the NSF Engineering Directorate for FY2012. These include Science Engineering and Education and Clean Energy; Advanced Manufacturing, which includes energy manufacturing; the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Program; and the NNI Signature Initiative in nanotechnology for solar energy collection and conversion.