I²CNER in Tokyo Symposium was a roaring success

International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research organized I²CNER in Tokyo Symposium “Japan-US Collaboration on Energy”

 I2CNER in Tokyo Header

The International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (I2CNER) organized the I²CNER in Tokyo Symposium at the National Center of Sciences in Tokyo on December 7, 2012.


The symposium was attended by approximately 150 guests, including several international participants, as well as special guests Mr. Daisuke Yoshida, Director-General, Research Promotion Bureau, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Dr. Toshio Kuroki, WPI Program Director, Ambassador John V. Roos, U.S. Embassy in Japan, and  Setsuo Arikawa, Kyushu University President, who each gave opening remarks.  Mr. Yoshida outlined how the WPI Program reflects and promotes the MEXT vision for education and research.   Dr. Kuroki presented a general overview of the WPI Program from its inception in 2007 through current day, emphasizing that the WPI Program is a new initiative designed to cultivate the fusion of scientific disciplines as a new approach to discovery and to promote conversation amongst young researchers.  Ambassador Roos stressed the importance of leveraging resources and scientific talent between the US and Japan to find 21st century energy solutions.  In particular, the Ambassador suggested that educational exchange of young scientists between the two countries would make future scientific collaborations more productive.  President Arikawa emphasized that Kyushu is committed to making I2CNER a successful example of its revitalization of the university research culture for the 21st century.


During the keynote speech, I2CNER Director Petros Sofronis emphasized that I2CNER is an international collaboration between Japan and the U.S., based at Kyushu University with a satellite at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I2CNER’s mission is to contribute to the creation of a sustainable and environmentally-friendly society by conducting fundamental research for the advancement of low carbon emission and cost effective energy systems, and improvement of energy efficiency.


Session 1 featured three topical lectures, the first of which was given by Dr. Katsuhiko Hirose, Project General Manager, R&D Management Division, TOYOTA Motor Corporation.  Dr. Hirose advised attendees that since the future of energy is unpredictable, innovation is the key to finding the solutions to energy problems.  In fact, Dr. Hirose drew a comparison between the present day and the Stone Age, pointing out that the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone, but because we found materials that were superior to stone.  Lead Principal Investigator Kazunari Sasaki, Fuel Cells Research Division, I2CNER, Kyushu University, outlined the current status and the future research directions of I2CNER in the field of Fuel Cells.  Specifically, Professor Sasaki explained how Kyushu University advances next generation fuel cell concepts such as durability, efficiency, cost reduction, and new materials.  Satellite Associate Director Kenneth Christensen, I2CNER, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, presented the ways in which I2CNER tackles the fundamental science that is needed to develop safe CO2 storage technologies and monitor and predict the long-term behavior of safely stored CO2.


Session 2 featured an invited lecture given by Dr. Monterey Gardiner, Technology Development Manager, Office of Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Infrastructure Technologies, U.S. Department of Energy.  Dr. Gardiner spoke about the technology, economics, and infrastructure requirements underlying the introduction of fuel cell and hydrogen vehicles, and the commercialization of stationary fuel cells.  He issued a grand challenge to the energy stakeholders in attendance to support and conduct research to enable technology for a carbon-neutral society, such as efficient energy storage, harmonization of safety codes and standards, and materials issues.


Following Sessions 1 and 2, a panel discussion was held, which involved open scientific debate between the lecturers and the audience.  The panel discussion was moderated by WPI Visiting Professor Mark Paster, Energy Analysis Research Division, I2CNER, Kyushu University.  Topics covered in the panel discussion included the role of society/individuals in energy conservation, infrastructure vs. commercialization of fuel cell vehicles (the chicken or the egg problem), safety of fuel cell technologies, dissemination of information to the public, and international regulation of emerging technologies in consideration of differing interests in developing countries.


In his closing remarks, Professor Nobuhide Kasagi, WPI Program Officer, stated that although the future of energy is uncertain and predictions are very difficult to make, we need to develop a scenario on how we can establish optimum energy solution pathways.  Professor Kasagi also prompted the scientific community and I2CNER researchers in particular to try to challenge the unyielding problems involved in the realization of a carbon-neutral energy society.  Professor Kasagi stressed the importance of fostering the US-Japan collaboration on research and development for energy and sustainability, suggesting that not only both countries, but also our “human-dominated planet” stand to gain from this relationship.