Challenges and Opportunities in an Emerging Solar Economy

April 4, 2018
3:15 pm – 4:30 pm

Perlstein Hall Auditorium, Illinois Institute of Technology
10 West 33rd Street, Chicago, IL, USA


Watch the event here!

Part of Illinois Institute of Technology’s Wanger Institute for Sustainability Energy Research (WISER) 2018 Distinguished Lectureship Series

For most of our existence, humans have been sustained by solar energy harnessed on the same timescale as its use. Only in the last two centuries have we become dependent on fossil resources. The ability to store energy in a dense form and use it easily led to unparalleled growth in science, technology, and commerce, and a greatly improved lifestyle, previously unimaginable for the common person. However, as the world population is expected to rise from roughly 7 billion to 10 billion, and lifestyle is expected to continue to improve in most parts of the world, the resulting rapid increase in demand for energy will place tremendous pressure on the availability of fossil resources.

Solar irradiation represents the only power source that can meet daily human needs for any foreseeable future.  Therefore, as we bid farewell to fossil resources to reembrace solar power, the question before us is: what challenges and opportunities might emerge in this solar economy and how will we adapt to them?

To understand the roles that engineers could play in this transition, we must begin by understanding the great challenges that will emerge due to the dilute nature of solar irradiation, the low efficiencies at which it is harnessed, and its intermittency in availability. When, on a daily basis, solar irradiation becomes the main supplier for food, energy, water, chemicals, and other human needs, we will also experience new and changed opportunities.

In this lecture, Dr. Agrawal will discuss the challenges related to harvesting solar power and its subsequent conversion and use, and demonstrate the need for an interdisciplinary approach to the development of successful engineering solutions. He will provide examples from his research group’s current efforts in energy and systems analysis, solution processed solar cells, biomass conversion to liquid fuels, and energy storage at GWhr levels. Dr. Agrawal will make the case that, if these emerging challenges are properly addressed, our future will be as bright and exciting in the sustainable-solar-powered world as it has been in the fossil-resource-driven world.


Wednesday, April 4 | 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm, Illinois Institute of Technology, 10 W. 33rd Street, Chicago, Illinois 60616, Perlstein Hall Auditorium – Room 131, (Overflow seating will be available in Perlstein Hall – Room 108). Light refreshments to follow the lecture. Event is free and open to the public, RSVP requested to .